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CEDAR RAPIDS — Push the tempo. Push the tempo.
That’s not just a basketball thing, folks. It works for baseball pitchers, too.
The difference between Tyler Wells in his first start for the Cedar Rapids Kernels and Tyler Wells in his last three starts has been tempo. Get the ball from the catcher and throw it right back to him.
“In that first start, my tempo was really bad. It was really slow,” Wells said, after pitching his team past Burlington, 6-1, Wednesday night at chilly Veterans Memorial Stadium. “I just kind of took my time, and it felt like forever.”
Catcher Ben Rortvedt nodded in agreement when he overhead Wells say that.
“Be quick between pitches, get ready to go,” Wells said. “I think that helps with the mental part of it for me, too. Think less, just go.”
Wells has thrown a combined 20 innings in his last three starts and given up just three runs. He has 26 strikeouts in that span.
At Beloit back on April 7, he lasted just four innings, walked four and allowed a couple of runs. That’s not a coincidence.
“His pace was slow, the game dragged,” said Kernels Manager Tommy Watkins. “We talked about his pace, and he’s been pounding the zone. I think that’s helped him pound the zone. He’s getting the ball and getting ready to go.”
Wells (2-0), a 6-foot-8 right-hander from Cal State-San Bernardino, doesn’t particularly overwhelm you with his stuff. His fastball is generally around 91 to 92 miles per hour, for instance.
But he throws four pitches for strikes. He’s got a knack for the craft, and it’s working.
A solo home run from Troy Montgomery was the only blip in seven innings here.
“He attacks the zone with his fastball,” Watkins said. “Fastball command is a big thing for me. And he can throw his breaking ball over for strikes, too. If you fall behind with your fastball, that’s when you start getting hurt.”
“Ben and me were definitely on the same page tonight,” Wells said. “I know that I didn’t have my best stuff. It was cold, you could go on with a list of stuff that was just kind of going against you. At the same time, though, it’s a matter of bearing down and doing as much as you can with what you have.”
The Kernels (11-9) scored five runs in the second inning for all the support Wells needed. Shane Carrier had a RBI double in the inning, and Jermaine Palacios provided a huge three-run triple to right-center field.
It’s the third game in a row the red-hot Palacios has tripled. He “only” went 1-for-4, seeing his batting average drop to .395.
Cedar Rapids heads to the road for four games at Peoria, beginning Thursday night.
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