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CEDAR RAPIDS — If things fall right in a few years, the Minnesota Twins could have power-hitting guys from the Dominican Republic as their corner infielders.
There’s Miguel Sano at third base. He just completed a monster April as he begins to establish himself as a big-time big leaguer.
Then there’s Lewin Diaz. The Cedar Rapids Kernels first baseman is in the low minors, but, man, you can see a bright future for the kid.
He homered twice Tuesday night and doubled in three go-ahead runs in his team’s 7-3 win over Lake County at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“I thought it was a very good game,” Diaz said with a smile. “I work every day on my swing. I look for a good pitch and swing hard.”
The 20-year-old has a Sano build at 6-foot-3 and 254 pounds. Also like Sano, he signed with the Twins as a 16-year-old international free agent for big money: $1.4 million in 2013.
While Sano is right-handed, Diaz is a lefty. He has generally handled his first experience with cold weather pretty well, coming into Tuesday’s game hitting .244 with seven doubles and nine RBIs.
He has been the victim of numerous hard-hit outs, too.
“I think he’s done well,” said Kernels Manager Tommy Watkins. “I know we talked early about him, that he was lining out all over the place. I think he started getting a little frustrated that the balls weren’t falling in. But we tried to explain to him that they’ll start dropping. He’s been good, swinging it good. He gets a little jumpy at times, but he’s smooth, he swings at good pitches and hits the ball hard.”
His first-inning solo homer was a towering shot just fair down the right-field line, his fourth-inning homer a line drive that barely cleared the right-field fence. After a sizzling groundout in the fifth, he came up with two outs and the bases loaded in a 3-3 game in the seventh, battled losing reliever Tanner Tully into a full count and dumped a ball the opposite way into left field to clear the bases.
That’s four quality at-bats, all against lefties.
“That was pretty good,” Watkins said. “He hit those two early, then he hit that one hard to first. He battled that last at-bat and dropped one in there for three runs. Pretty good.”
Hector Lujan (1-0) pitched three hitless shutout innings for the well-deserved victory, coming on in a jam in the fifth and minimizing Lake County damage to three runs. Aaron Whitefield added a homer and three hits, coming up a triple shy of the cycle for the Kernels (14-10).
The teams play again Wednesday night at 6:35.
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