Thorp Continues To Look Ahead

Putting His Late-Season Struggles Behind Him

Drafted in the 31st round out of Baylor University back in the 2002 MLB Draft, Paul Thorp was rolling along in his two plus seasons in the Yankees' farm system entering the 2005 season with Tampa Yankees. But after dominating the Florida State League the first half of the year, Thorp inexplicably struggled mightily in the second half for his first rough patch in his professional career.

Paul Thorp first opened some eyes in the Yankees' organization after posting a 1.98 ERA and six saves for the Staten Island Yankees back in 2003. He entered the 2005 season with a career 2.73 ERA and 32 saves after racking up 26 saves as the Battle Creek closer in the Midwest League in 2004 and he was seemingly on his way for another stellar year, this time with the Tampa Yankees in 2005.

Thorp was as dominant a pitcher as there was in the Florida State League in the beginning of the 2005 season, opening the year with 13 saves and a 2.11 ERA in his first 22 appearances, including a stretch of 14 straight games with giving up an earned run.

But as hot as he was in the first half of the 2005 season, he was equally as cold in the second half. Thorp went 1-3 with a 5.67 ERA in his final 28 games with Tampa, his first real rough patch as a professional reliever.

Was his complete 180 degree turnaround a product of nagging injury?

"I think it was mostly my focus and pitch recognition," the 25-year old Thorp told PinstripesPlus.com in a recent interview. "I just left too many pitches up in the zone. I just wasn't making quality pitches for a about a month or so and it really hurt me. I was healthy the whole year, but it was just a snowball effect. My confidence was getting worse with each bad outing. The mental part of the game is a big, big part of it too."

Not one of your prototypical power closers, Thorp, who throws a fastballs around 91 MPH, uses a very good changeup to keep hitters off balance.

"I like to locate my fastball and use my changeup as my out pitch," the right-handed hurler told us. "My changeup is definitely my best offspeed pitch."

He compliments his fastball and changeup with a solid slider in the 78-82 MPH range. Thorp is what many in baseball would call a "backwards" pitcher, setting up his fastball with his secondary pitches. It remains to be seen if his repertoire is set in stone however.

"I might tinker with something [another pitch] in Spring Training," the Texas native pondered. "I don't know if they [the Yankees] think I need another pitch or not. But working with Nardi Contreras has been great. He has helped me a lot and that has been in just one year."

Thorp, despite his rather disappointing finish to his 2005 season, is quite thankful to be a part of the Yankees' organization and seems grounded in dealing with his late season struggles.

"It is privilege and exciting," Thorp told us about being a part of the Yankees' organization. "You just never know what's going to happen. It is just amazing being a part of the greatest organization in sports. Sometimes it is tough because maybe we don't get chances at the Majors like some guys in other organizations do, but this year was different with Cano, Wang, and Henn. I know all of those guys and it was really exciting to see them go up. It was just great to see them [the Yankees] give the younger guys a chance to play."

Perhaps seeing his friends get the opportunity many believed to have escaped them will reinvigorate his career. His second-half collapse was his first real extended slump since coming out of Baylor, and despite his summer shortcomings, Thorp continues to look forward rather than focus on the negatives of the recent past.

"I don't know where I'm going to start, but my goal is to be a mainstay in AA, maybe even possibly move up from there," a confident Paul Thorp told us. "My goal each season is to make my years better from year to year. I'd like to keep getting more saves and just keep throwing well."

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