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CEDAR RAPIDS — The Nuke LaLoosh comparison is inevitable.
Alex Robinson of the Cedar Rapids Kernels has incomparable stuff. It’s plain old nasty.
His fastball sits in the mid-90s and can reach 97 or 98 miles per hour. His slider is of the wipeout variety.
But the thing that has been his bugaboo during his three-year professional baseball career is control. It hasn’t been good, though it’s getting there.
Take Saturday night’s relief appearance in a 4-3 loss to Fort Wayne at Veterans Memorial Stadium as an example. The solidly built 6-foot-3 left-hander faced six batters and struck out four of them.
The only guy to reach against him did so on a third-strike passed ball. He was dominant.
“I’ve been working a lot with (pitching coach) J.P. (Martinez), and it has helped. I feel pretty good,” Robinson said, after his team’s 4-3 loss before 3,227 fans at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Robinson was a fourth-round draft pick of the parent Minnesota Twins in 2015 out of the University of Maryland. He came into this season having thrown 45 career innings, having walked 50 guys and having struck out 77.
Those are crazy numbers. But with his stint Saturday, the walk total this season is only four in 11 1/3 innings.
You don’t have to squint to see potential big league late-inning reliever.
“That’s always been the thing,” Robinson said of his control issues. “I’ve been working on just not trying to be so fast (in my delivery). Slow things down ... I have worked a lot on the mental side of things, too.”
“That was the one thing coming in. He wasn’t throwing his fastball over,” said Kernels Manager Tommy Watkins. “But he’s been doing that pretty good. Good velo, too. He’s been impressive.”
The Kernels (16-12) gave up a pair of unearned runs in a three-run second inning and never recovered. Fort Wayne (11-18) built a 4-1 lead, with Cedar Rapids not quite able to get all the way back.
It stranded the tying runner at third base in the seventh and at second in the eighth. Ariel Montesino and Travis Blankenhorn, who appears to be out of a slump, had two hits apiece.
The teams conclude their three-game series Sunday afternoon at 2:05.
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