Kepler headed to Kernels; end of line for Buxton?

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CEDAR RAPIDS - Read into this any way you'd like.

The Cedar Rapids Kernels will announce the addition of outfielder Max Kepler to their active roster for the beginning of the Midwest League's second half Thursday night. Does Kepler's presence mean the permanent absence of outfielder Byron Buxton?

We'll find out.

Kepler, 20, is considered one of the top 10 prospects in the Minnesota Twins farm system. The 6-foot-4 left-handed hitter was expected to start this season with the Kernels but has been held back in extended spring training by an elbow injury.

That's an injury Kernels Manager Jake Mauer said over the weekend was still preventing Kepler from playing the field. Kepler hit .297 with 10 home runs and 49 RBIs in 59 games last season for Rookie-level Elizabethton.

He was signed in 2009 out of Berlin, Germany, for a bonus of $800,000, the highest ever given a European player.

Buxton is one of eight Kernels who will participate Tuesday night in the Midwest League All-Star Game in Dayton, Ohio. It has been widely speculated the 19-year-old center fielder's promotion to high-Class A Fort Myers is imminent.

Cedar Rapids did have an open roster spot with the announcement Sunday that pitcher Hein Robb was being re-assigned to Elizabethton. Kepler's addition would mean the normal 13 position players and 12 pitchers for the Kernels.

Other Kernels players in the MWL All-Star Game are first baseman D.J. Hicks, outfielder Adam Brett Walker, third baseman Travis Harrison, shortstop Niko Goodrum, second baseman Jorge Polanco and pitchers Jose Berrios and Steve Gruver.

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