A lot of positives for Dereck Rodriguez, but not a win

Cedar Rapids Kernel pitches well, gets no decision as team loses to Kane County, 7-4

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Someday soon Dereck Rodriguez will catch a couple of breaks. You can feel them coming.

But Saturday night was not that someday. The Cedar Rapids Kernels starting pitcher was in line for a much-needed victory but saw Kane County rally against the bullpen for five late runs and a 7-4 win before 3,717 fans at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

So Rodriguez’s record remains an unsightly 1-10, the loss total the highest in the Midwest League. His only win came almost two months ago, May 14 against Wisconsin.

“I’ve felt comfortable, honestly, my last three or four outings,” he said. “This was the first night where I really was able to control the damage. I left the game on top ... That’s just part of baseball.”

Rodriguez, 24, is the son of future Hall of Fame catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez. He was an outfielder when he initially was drafted and signed by the Minnesota Twins in 2011 but converted to the mound in 2014.

He is learning how to pitch on the fly. The right-hander has four good individual pitches to offer, including a low-90s fastball, but has been spotty at locating them.

When he’s up in the zone, he gets hit hard. And when he has gotten hit hard in games, the damage has resulted in crooked-number innings.

“Obviously it’s been a tough season,” said Rodriguez, whose earned run average improved to a still-high 6.27. “There have been times where I’ve felt like I don’t even know what I’m doing ... But since the all-star break, I feel like I’ve come back with a lot of confidence.”

No doubting this start was a positive. Rodriguez gave up Trevor Mitsui’s two-run home run to dead center field in the fourth inning, but that was it.

He finished with seven strikeouts in six innings of work. A three-run home run by Austin Byler in the eighth against newbie reliever Max Cordy put Kane County on top for good and gave Rodriguez a tough-to-take no-decision.

“He’s a pretty mentally tough kid,” said Kernels pitching coach J.P Martinez. “The thing we kind of talk about is there is what happens in the game, and then there is what you tell yourself about it. If you have an issue at some point, you can tell yourself ‘Here we go again,’ or you can tell yourself ‘This is what led to that.’ Kind of work on fixing that. He has been pretty good in that regard. He has been putting a lot of work in on the side at getting his fastball down in the zone where it needs to be. He’s got four pitches, four really good pitches. It’s just a matter of being consistent with locating them and being able to execute when he’s got chances to strike guys out to get out of the inning. That’s going to be the big key for him.”

A Sean Miller RBI single in the fifth put the Kernels (44-42, 8-9) on top in the fourth, 3-2. They added a run an inning later on a Jermaine Palacios run-scoring hit but ran into two outs on the bases after that hit to curb what could have been a big inning.

The teams play again Sunday afternoon at 2:05.

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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