Amid player moves, C.R. Kernels edge Clinton to pull within game of 1st place

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The home clubhouse at Veterans Memorial Stadium was alive postgame Wednesday night. Then it went really silent very quickly.

The Cedar Rapids Kernels got a huge RBI double in the eighth inning from Kevin Garcia to post a 4-3 win over the Clinton LumberKings before 2,410 fans.

The victory moved the Men of Corn within a game of Clinton for first place in the Midwest League’s Western Division second half. That was exciting enough.

Then it was revealed that starting pitchers Cody Stashak and Dereck Rodriguez have been promoted to high-Class A Fort Myers of the Florida State League. The two were hugged and congratulated by teammates.

A couple minutes later, things got very quiet when it was found out that relief pitcher Kuo Hua Lo had been released by the parent Minnesota Twins. Lo pitched well here most of the season but gave up nine runs in 1 2/3 innings to take the loss Tuesday night at Burlington.

“It’s never fun,” said Kernels Manager Jake Mauer, who informed Stashak, Rodriguez and Lo of their immediate fates. “We get good kids here. It’s always tough. I hope Lo doesn’t think it’s because of the way he pitched last night. It’s not. Sometimes it comes down to a numbers situation. Some guys are doing well that need to pitch. Some guys are moving around the organization that need a spot, and that’s kind of how it shakes out. We’ve released some pretty good players here that have gone on to pitch for other organizations and are doing OK.”

He mentioned relievers Chris Mazza and Jose Velez, who were released last season as members of the Kernels but who have hooked on with the Florida Marlins organization. You’d think Lo (who had a 2.60 earned run average in 25 appearances for C.R.) would get a chance with someone else.

“It’s not always the end of the road,” Mauer said. “It’s difficult because it’s all you’ve known. It’s your buddies and everything. But, too, a change of scenery for some of these guys does some good.”

The departure of Rodriguez and Stashak certainly will hurt the Kernels. Stashak (8-5, 3.16) has been very consistent in his 17 starts, while Rodriguez was the club’s hottest pitcher, going at least six innings in his last nine starts.

Mauer did not know who was joining the Kernels (60-48, 24-15). Everyone will find out sometime Thursday.

Starter Brady Anderson made his Cedar Rapids debut Wednesday night, going five-plus innings, allowing seven hits and three runs. He joined the team Wednesday from the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Twins.

He was a non-drafted free-agent signee in late June out of Florida Gulf Coast University. In an odd twist, his pitching coach there, Pete Woodworth, was Clinton’s pitching coach Wednesday.

Woodworth joined the Clinton staff midseason after its original pitching coach left to take a college position. Reliever Cam Booser was promoted from Cedar Rapids to Fort Myers before Wednesday’s game.

Sean Miller blooped an opposite-field double to right field with one out in the eighth. Garcia followed by pulling a drive just over the glove of Clinton right fielder Gus Craig, who was playing shallow.

Max Cordy (1-1) threw two shutout relief innings to pick up the win.

“I was just trying to lock in on the guy,” Garcia said of losing Clinton reliever Lukas Schiraldi (5-4). “I was just trying to figure him out. I hit a curveball.”

To follow with the theme of the night, Garcia is in his first season as a member of the Twins organization. He was released last November after spending two years with the Toronto Blue Jays.

As Mauer mentioned, sometimes second chances are a good thing.

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