It was "Meet the Kernels Night" at Veterans Mermorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids Tuesday night, giving local fans and media a first look at the 2014 version of the Twins' Class A Midwest League affiliate and giving the Kernels players their first look at chilly Iowa April temperatures.
After the media portion of the event, players and coaches mingled with fans on the concourse to chat and sign autographs. Then they shed their parkas for a brief workout.
The cold temperatures made for a pretty small turnout from the public and that's unfortunate, but understandable. The more unfortunate fact is that the weather forecast for Opening Night on Thursday (and Friday, for that matter) makes the proposition of actually getting baseball played a little dicey.
A year ago, it seemed like weather was forcing doubleheaders every week for the first couple months across the Midwest League and I wouldn't be surprised if we start the season with a twin-bill (or two) over the weekend as well.
Manager Jake Mauer, along with hitting coach Tommy Watkins and pitching coach Ivan Arteaga met with media for a few minutes, as did four members of the new Kernels roster: Kohl Stewart, Aaron Slegers, Mitch Garver and Chad Christensen. They all arrived in the media room wearing their newly-issued Cedar Rapids Kernels parkas.
Nothing says "play ball" like new team parkas and portable gas heaters in the dugout!
The field staff and players who met with the media had some interesting things to say and I'll try to write a follow up story with quotes later this week.
I did ask Arteaga about his plans for the rotation, specifically about whether he planned to use a six-man rotation again this year, as pitching coach Gary Lucas had in 2013.
Arteaga explained that that's pretty much an organizational approach to young pitchers in order to protect their arms. He did add, however, that for the first couple of weeks, they were likely to use a five-man rotation, with a piggy-backing of their fifth and sixth starting pitchers in game 5 next week.
Miguel Sulbaran is not yet stretched out to the point where he needs to start, so he'll split games with another pitcher the first couple times through the rotation. Within a couple of weeks, however, Arteaga believes they'll be on track with the six-man rotation.
Other than that bit of "news," you'll just have to be satisfied with getting a little sense of flavor of the evening from a few pictures.
Left to Right: pitching coach Ivan Arteaga, hitting coach Tommy Watkins, manager Jake Mauer
Kernels prepare for introductions