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As season's end draws near, C.R. Kernels mindful of starting pitcher workloads

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Cody Stashak hit the magic 100 number Sunday afternoon.

The Cedar Rapids Kernels pitcher has officially thrown 100 1/3 innings this season after working six frames in a 10-6 win over Dayton at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

This is the time in the Midwest League season where clubs are especially mindful of the workloads their pitchers have endured. Philosophies vary from major league organization to major league organization as how to best handle their minor leaguers.

There is no one best way.

“Everybody would be doing the same thing, if that was the case,” said Kernels Manager Jake Mauer.

The Los Angeles Angels, for instance, allow their starters at Burlington of the MWL only five innings per outing maximum. Clubs like the Milwaukee Brewers and Houston Astros generally employ a piggyback policy for Wisconsin and Quad Cities, respectively.

That means four groups of tandem starters, with one guy starting one game and relieving his partner the next. Some MLB organizations limit pitchers to no more than 35 pitches per inning, in an attempt to reduce arm stress.

The Minnesota Twins (farm director Brad Steil and roving pitching instructor Eric Rasmussen) don’t have anything set in concrete, only general guidelines.

“There’s not a hard and fast rule,” said Kernels pitching coach J.P. Martinez. “The general rule we have is 20 percent more innings each year. So if a guy throws 100, he can go 120 the next year, and so on.”

Stashak threw over 120 innings last season between Rookie ball and college at St. John’s, so there is no worry with him. Mauer said none of his team’s starters are in danger of having to be shut down before the season ends.

“Guys have got to learn how to pitch,” Mauer said. “That’s the most important thing. It’s hard to learn how to pitch sitting on the bench. You’ve just got to get out there. You’ve got to get innings, have tough innings and learn damage control, those types of things.”

The Kernels have employed a six-man starting rotation most of the season instead of the traditonal five-man, so that has helped. Cedar Rapids (53-46, 17-13 second half) have five starters at the moment: Stashak, Dereck Rodriguez, Lachlan Wells, Sam Gibbons and Eddie Del Rosario.

“We’ve done a good enough job managing innings early in the season so that it won’t be a problem,” Martinez said. “I think the plan Rasmussen and Brad have implemented ... has worked, in terms of development and limiting innings and saving their bullets.

“There is a lot that goes into pitch counts and innings counts now, and I think a lot of that has to do with kids specializing and starting their careers early. They are showing up in pro ball after being, I don’t want to say abused, but having pitched too much. Not having thrown enough throughout their career. One thing I think we do well is our guys spend a lot of time throwing. We manage their pitching and take care of their arms really well.”

The Kernels took advantage of eight walks from three Dayton pitchers to even this three-game series at a game each. The teams play again Monday at noon.

Leadoff hitter Casey Scoggins walked four times and scored three runs. Chris Ibarra had three RBI on a two-run triple and bases-loaded walk.

“It wasn’t a good day to be a pitcher,” Mauer said. “Both guys. A lot of pitches. We finally took some walks ... put some runs up, finally opened up the game a little bit.”

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

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