On Friday afternoon, the Minnesota Twins played the Baltimore Orioles to a 2-2 tie at Hammond Stadium. The big news of the day was that the Twins had restructured closer Glen Perkinsí contract. Meanwhile, on the back field, the two Twins' Class A affiliates were playing spring training games against the Class A affiliates of the Tampa Bay Rays.
It may not sound all that great to many, but when the Cedar Rapids team threw three of the Twins top young pitching prospects, it made for must-see-MiLB! Kohl Stewart, Fernando Romero and Lewis Thorpe all took the mound for the Kernels. On the other field, minor league baseballís top two RBI producers of 2013 started where they left off.
Letís start with the Cedar Rapids game? Why? Because pitching is what wins, right? And the (distant) future of Twins pitching was on display.
Making the start for the Kernels roster was 2013 first-round draft pick Kohl Stewart. He struggled a little bit with his control the first couple of batters. The leadoff batter hit a leadoff single up the middle. He stole second before the next batter singled to right field, the lead runner stopping at third. It was at that point Stewart took off a bit. He got a weak ground ball to first base (the run scored). He then struck out the next two batters on curve balls.
In the second inning, he struck out the first two batters, both also on the curve ball. He walked the third batter on a close, 3-2 pitch. He had a two-strike count on the next batter when the base runner was caught stealing.
In the third inning, Stewart got a broken-bat grounder to the short for the first out. He fielded his position well on a comebacker from the second batter. The third batter got hold of one and hit a triple off the wall in left field. However, Stewart recorded the third out on a soft liner to the third baseman.
That was it for Stewart in the outing. He gave up one run on three hits. He walked one batter and struck out four. He was consistently throwing 93-94 mph with the fastball and touched 95 (and he makes it look easy). The curveball was a very impressive pitch and had other pitchers sitting behind home plate shaking their heads.
Asked for his thoughts on his first outing, he said, ďI felt good. I was a little wild in the first inning, but the more I went on, the more comfortable I was. I kind of settled in the second and third inning. Thereís a lot more out there.Ē
He threw three of his four (or more) pitch mix in the game. He didnít even throw what some believe could be his best pitch, the slider.
Said Stewart, ďI only threw fastball, curve, change today, two-seam. I didnít throw the slider today.Ē
Next in for the Kernels was hard-throwing 19-year-old Fernando Romero. He came in and was very impressive. The strong-legged, strong-armed right-hander made things look pretty easy in his first inning. He got a broken-bat groundout to first base on the first batter. He then struck out the next two batters he faced.
In his second inning, he struck out the first batter. The second batter hit a bounding ground ball. Shortstop Jonatan Hinojosa made a terrific play but the throw to first was just a little late. The next batter reached out and hit a grounder through the right side for a single. Romero responded with a strikeout. However, the sharp breaking ball got by the catcher for a wild pitch and a run scored. Romero did get the final two outs without further damage.
So, Fernando Romero gave up one run on two hits in two innings. He walked none and struck out four. As impressive, the radar gun showed his fastball between 92-95 mph, touching 96 a couple of times. He breaking ball clocked in at about 84-86 mph. He also had a changeup in the 83 mph range.
For the 6th
inning, the Kernels brought Lewis Thorpe into the game. Things werenít easy for him in his first inning. The first batter singled. The next batter hit a ball to shortstop that was an error. He recorded the first out with a fly out to center field. The next batter had a single to right to load the bases. At that point, Thorpe bore down. He got a strikeout on a sharp curve ball. Then, he pumped up his best fastball of the day to get a strikeout for the third out of the inning.
In the 7th
, Thorpe walked the first batter. The next batter bunted, and Thorpe fielded his position well and got the out. With a runner on second, he got a line out to third base which was turned into a double play when the runner was too far off second base.
In his two scoreless innings, he gave up two hits, walked one and struck out two. He sat between 89-91 mph with his fastball. His breaking pitch and changeup are in the low 80s. You can see the competitive fire, even in a game like this. When he had the bases loaded and just one out, he got the two needed strikeouts on two different pitches. The curveball was sharp, and the fastball hit 93 mph. He found that second gear, so to speak.
Though the three pitchers threw for the Cedar Rapids Kernels work group today, it is unlikely that any of them will start the season with the Kernels. They will most likely start the season at Extended Spring Training.
Christian Powell and Chris Mazza each pitched an inning as well.
Offensively, Zack Larson had two singles in four at bats. Alex Swim caught the final six innings. He went 1-1 with a double and a walk. Chad Christensen went 2-2 with a two-run single.
On the other field, the Ft. Myers Miracle played as well. They used five pitchers. Lefty Mason Melotakis went the first three innings and looked like he was throwing pretty hard and showing a good breaking ball. Minnesota-native Brandon Peterson worked the next two innings. The reliever from Wichita State throws really hard (I was unable to see a radar gun) and showed a sharp slider. He looks like he could be really effective out of the bullpen. Todd Van Steensel continues to impress. He looks like a guy who can come in and get hitters out. He gave up a couple of hits, but he looked strong. Finally, Alex Muren worked the final two innings.
Pedro Florimon played for the Miracle. He batted each of the first three innings and played three innings in the field. In the first inning, he batted second and flew out to left field on the first pitch. In the second inning, he batted third and struck out looking. In the third inning, he batted second, swung at the first pitch and bounced back to the pitcher. In the second inning, he fielded a ground ball cleanly, but the throw short-hopped Dalton Hicks for an error. Two batters later, he got another ground ball, fielded it smoothly and made a strong, chest-high throw. Donít be surprised if he gets a start for the Twins by Sunday.
In 2013, Dalton Hicks led minor league baseball with 110 RBI. Coming in second was Adam Walker with 109. It appears that the duo is starting 2014 on the right track. In the second inning, Walker crushed a ball well beyond the fence in left field for a home run. In the sixth inning, he came up with the bases loaded and drove in two with a single up the middle. Logan Wade and Zach Granite scored. Hicks came to bat next and his double drove in two more.
Walker was 2-4 with the three RBI. Max Kepler also hit the ball well. He had a line drive triple to the gap in left centerfield and displayed very good speed. He added a single later in the game. Hicks was 1-2 with a walk and the two-run double.
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