This is the first part in a series where we will take a look at Minnesota Twins prospects who are working their way back from injury to continue their journey to the majors. Today’s player is LHP Lewis Thorpe.
As soon as he signed with the Twins in July 2012, 16-year-old Australian southpaw Lewis Thorpe quickly became one of the more interesting pitching prospects in the organization. In his minor league debut in 2013, Thorpe had a 4-1 record with a 2.05 ERA in 12 appearances (including eight starts) and a 13.1 K/9 rate pitching in the Gulf Coast League. In 2014, he made the jump to Low-A Cedar Rapids where he made 16 starts, accumulating a 3-2 record with a 3.52 ERA and a 10.0 K/9 rate.
Coming into Spring Training 2016, Thorpe was ready to take the next step forward in his career, but instead he found himself plagued by elbow issues. He was soon diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament and underwent Tommy John surgery at the end of Spring Training. Thorpe was getting ready to make his return in 2016 when he came down with a case of mononucleosis that put his rehab on hold. The Twins proceeded to shut him down for the entire year in order for him to work on improving his conditioning and get back into shape for 2017.
After being out of the game for two years, Thorpe returned to the mound last year, making 16 starts and throwing a career-high 83 innings between High-A Fort Myers and Double-A Chattanooga. Thorpe made 15 of his 16 starts with Fort Myers, where he recorded a 3-4 record with a 2.69 ERA and 9.8 K/9.
I had the chance recently to speak with Thorpe about his two-year hiatus from baseball, and what he is thinking heading into his second season back in the game. Here is what he had to say:
So tell me a little about what you went through with those two years you were away from the game.
It was a tough time. Being out that long you just miss playing; you miss putting on a uniform. It was tough. I had my ups and downs, but I had my family, coaches, players, and they all gave me support to get through the tough times. But I’m glad now that I’m back healthy, feeling good and ready for 2018.
How did it feel to be back out on the mound (in 2017) after that two-year absence?
Oh it was awesome. You know, you never want to miss any time playing, but it was just a great feeling being back in the clubhouse. To go out and put on that uniform again and stepping out on the rubber. Just being able to throw to batters and just to be back out there and competing against other teams. It was just a lot of fun.
How did you feel out there on the mound last year compared to where you were before your absence?
You know, I didn’t feel like 100 percent, but I got better after each start I did. I figured it out and I had a good pitching coach, (Fort Myers pitching coach) Henry Bonilla, and he helped me through my mechanics and get back to where I normally was. So each start I just got better and better.
How have you been feeling this off-season with getting back into shape and getting your arm strengthened up?
I worked out this off-season, and I was able to work out a bit back home for about a month. It was nice being back home since I haven’t been there in two years, so it was good to go and see family and friends there. I’m feeling strong and ready for 2018, my body is feeling healthy and I’m ready to go.
What’s an aspect of your game that you’re looking to improve upon this year?
Just commanding the strike zone a little bit more. After my first year back from TJ, I didn’t really feel the same. I didn’t really have the command I wanted to, so now I just need to figure out all my pitches, learn how to get a breaking ball back over the plate — put one in there. And, yeah just like I said command the strike zone and cut down on the walks and leave runners on base. That’s what I’m gonna work on.
What do you think your chances are of making it to the majors some day?
Um, I don’t really know what my chances are. I mean, hopefully in September I can get a call up and see what happens. If I have a good year, if I start up in Chattanooga and do what I do best, and then just show what I got and hopefully it’ll all pan out and hopefully I’ll get a call up at the end of the year.
Article featured image of Lewis Thorpe – courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins Daily