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Thornburg impressing out of Brewers 'pen

MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- The consensus around the Brewers is that right-hander Tyler Thornburg's fastball, curveball and changeup are all better -- significantly better -- than ever, but even Thornburg has a hard time explaining exactly why.

The 25-year-old right-hander was the last pitcher to make the Opening Day roster but has already logged a pair of wins, one coming after an impressive two-inning performance against the Phillies on Wednesday night. On Thursday, Thornburg appeared again and retired all three hitters he faced in the seventh inning of a 6-2 Brewers win.

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PHILADELPHIA -- The consensus around the Brewers is that right-hander Tyler Thornburg's fastball, curveball and changeup are all better -- significantly better -- than ever, but even Thornburg has a hard time explaining exactly why.

The 25-year-old right-hander was the last pitcher to make the Opening Day roster but has already logged a pair of wins, one coming after an impressive two-inning performance against the Phillies on Wednesday night. On Thursday, Thornburg appeared again and retired all three hitters he faced in the seventh inning of a 6-2 Brewers win.

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His stuff has been so good, manager Ron Roenicke said, that Thornburg is pitching his way out of long relief and into the Brewers' mix of late-inning options.

"I don't know, maybe he wants another job," Roenicke joked. "Maybe he wants to close or something."

Thornburg is working with an impressive arsenal, including a fastball that's averaging 93.7 mph -- nearly 2 mph better than last year, when he worked a mix of starts and relief -- plus a 76.6 mph curveball and an 83.2 mph changeup that Thornburg is using much more often. After allowing a run to the Braves in his season debut, Thornburg has worked three scoreless appearances spanning five innings, with two hits, no walks and six strikeouts.

"Nobody's body is exactly the same, and it's hard to figure out what your shoulder, what your arm needs to feel 100 percent," Thornburg said. "Once you find a couple of things that work for you, you repeat it. One of the main reasons people start losing [velocity] is your shoulder is unstable or your scapula starts moving, and you're going to have to find ways to restabilize it, get the 'scap' moving again properly."

Is Thornburg trying to say that he pitched with some discomfort last season, when he was 3-1 with a 2.03 ERA in 18 games, seven starts, with a four-seam fastball that averaged 92 mph?

"Any time you go from starting to relieving, starting to relieving, you see a lot of those guys get hurt," Thornburg said. "That's probably one of the main components when your 'velo' comes down. That could have been one reason for it, and then I figured out what works good for my arm."

Roenicke, meanwhile, is figuring out how durable Thornburg can be out of the bullpen. Wednesday marked his second two-inning appearance in four days.

"The way he's pitching, he's pitching himself to where I feel good anywhere I put him in a game," Roenicke said. "His off-speed stuff is so good. He's painting [the corners with] some fastballs, and I look up and they're 94, 95 mph, and you know a hitter has to look at that and say, 'I have to quicken up a little.' Then with a plus changeup and a plus curveball, it doesn't matter if you're left- or right-handed. He's got really good stuff."

Thornburg's move to relief work is not necessarily permanent, club officials say. He certainly has the arsenal to be successful as a starting pitcher, and could return to that role if needs change.

"I have no idea what is in store for this year, as far as whether I'll be a reliever all year or what might happen," Thornburg said. "Hopefully, it will be one of those years where I'm used a lot. I'm going to have to do everything possible to stay healthy."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy.

Milwaukee Brewers, Tyler Thornburg