Burdi blows it by them

Kernels reliever hits 101 MPH and closes out 4-3 win over Fort Wayne

Kernels catcher Mitch Garver catches a Fort Wayne pop up into foul territory for an out during a game at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids on Saturday, July 19, 2014. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)
Kernels catcher Mitch Garver catches a Fort Wayne pop up into foul territory for an out during a game at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids on Saturday, July 19, 2014. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)

CEDAR RAPIDS – Nick Burdi peaked. He admitted it.

Curiously it wasn’t after he threw a super-sized fastball in the ninth inning Saturday night. One of those registered 101 miles per hour.

No, the Cedar Rapids Kernels reliever took a gander at the Veterans Memorial Stadium scoreboard after striking out Fort Wayne’s Nick Schulz on an 0-2 slider. An absolutely filthy 91-mile-per-hour slider.

“I usually try not to look,” Burdi said, after he closed out a Kernels’ 4-3 victory before 5,090 fans. “But the one where I really let loose, I kind of gave it a little peak. That one felt really good coming out of my hand, and I knew it was pretty hard.”

People are infatuated with velocity in this day and age of baseball, and Burdi offers so very much of it. The 6-foot-5 right-hander from the University of Louisville, the parent Twins’ second-round draft pick in June, is a power arm with a capital ‘P.’

He has had spells of wildness in his four weeks with the Kernels, including walking all four batters he faced in his professional debut in late June. But when he is right, he is virtually unhittable.

He was right Saturday, setting down Fort Wayne in order, including two strikeouts, as Cedar Rapids (46-52, 15-13) won for the ninth time in 10 games.

“Obviously his stuff is closer stuff,” said Kernels Manager Jake Mauer. “When he’s throwing that slider up there at 89, 90 miles per hour, those are like Nintendo sliders.”

“It’s just a huge blessing from God,” Burdi said. “He has given me an extremely big gift that I have to use to the best of my abilities to glorify him. It’s an awesome feeling whenever you can do anything extraordinary (and better) than most people.”

Burdi, 21, said he first hit the coveted 100 mark pitching in a game in the summer collegiate Cape Cod League two years ago. He didn’t actually hit 100, blowing past it to the tune of 103.

That’s a special arm.

“I think I’ve become accustomed to, whenever there is that type of environment, where the game is on the line, I want us to either live or die with me on the mound,” he said. “It’s just the type of competitiveness I have, I guess. The type of player I am.”

This was Burdi’s second save. Reliever Chris Mazza (2-2) got the win in relief of starter Lewis Thorpe, who is on a strict 75-pitch count and lasted 4 1/3 innings.

The Kernels scored three times in the sixth inning to overcome a 2-1 deficit. Mitch Garver and Bryan Haar had RBI singles for the second and third runs.

Cedar Rapids came into the day tied with Burlington and Wisconsin for third place in the Western Division in the Midwest League’s second half. Most importantly, it came in tied with Wisconsin for what right now is the final playoff spot in the division.

“There is a whole month and a half left. A lot of things can happen,” Mauer said. “Hopefully we don’t get bit again with the injury bug. We’re kind of in the same boat as we were in the first half at this point, actually. Then we had a bunch of guys go down seemingly at the same time. That’s the thing with baseball. You never know what can happen, with not only promotion, but injury. We’re sitting here talking, but in a month, we could look completely different than we do right now.”

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