FORT MYERS, FLA. – The Twins beat out a dozen teams to sign Lewis Thorpe as a 16-year-old Australian pitching prospect in July 2012. The Twins gave the lefthander a $500,000 signing bonus and had him start his professional career in this country in the Gulf Coast League in the summer of 2013.
Thorpe had 64 strikeouts in 44 innings in the rookie league. He pitched another 36 ⅔ innings in the Australian Baseball League that winter (which is summer in Australia).
Thorpe was 18 when the Twins sent him to Class A Cedar Rapids for the 2014 season. He was the youngest player in the Midwest League and did OK: a 3-2 record with a 4.65 ERA in 16 starts, and 80 strikeouts in 71 ⅔ innings.
A few days after the season ended, Thorpe had elbow pain and was diagnosed with a strained ligament. Thorpe skipped the Australian league. He made a start against Tampa Bay's high-Class A team in 2015 spring training and that was it.
The elbow ligament was torn. He had Tommy John replacement surgery last April 10.
He was home in Australia for three weeks over the Christmas holidays. Other than that respite, Thorpe has been in Florida, going through the slow rehabilitation process that pitchers must endure after elbow surgery.
On Friday, Thorpe had a throwing session off a mound for the second time since the surgery. Catcher Alex Swim set up in front of the plate, making it a 55-foot session.
"The plan is I'll be ready to throw live batting practice next month, and then I'll stay here with the extended-spring team," Thorpe said. "If everything goes OK, I'll be pitching for a minor league club later in the summer."
Thorpe is still only 20, and when you watch him throw — even from 55 feet — he has the look of a pitcher. He's now more muscular than the listed 6-foot-1 and 160 pounds, and as Ron Gardenhire used to tell us, "The ball comes out of his hand."
The Twins have signed many players from Australia. Assuming the elbow holds, this kid should be the real deal.