SPORTS

Hard-throwing Brusdar Graterol shines in latest start for Cedar Rapids Kernels

Young pitcher hit 100 mph on radar gun 3 times in 5 shutout innings

Brusdar Graterol
Brusdar Graterol

CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Kernels fans received their first look at hard-throwing Brusdar Graterol.

The 19-year-old right hander tabbed the Minnesota Twins’ No. 5 prospect by Baseball America did not disappoint in his second Midwest League start. The only disappointing aspect is he wasn’t rewarded for his effort.

Graterol allowed just three hits in five scoreless innings, but received a no-decision in West Michigan’s 4-1 victory over the Kernels Friday night in front of 4,356 fans at Memorial Stadium.

The outing was better than his first appearance at Quad Cities on April 27, when he allowed three runs in 3 2/3 innings.

“I threw the ball better (Friday night),” Graterol said through an interpreter. “I feel I was better than the last time. I focused better and was trying to stay more under control.”

Graterol’s velocity was impressive from the start. He showed off the prized arm, hitting 100 miles per hour on the radar gun three times in the opening inning. Graterol averaged 97.1 mph for the 47 fastballs her threw to the Whitecaps (16-11).

“It’s kind of normal for me,” Graterol said. “I’ve been working really hard. I know I’ve been throwing 100 miles per hour several times so I was just trying to concentrate and keep it on the strike zone. It’s not about 100 miles per hour. It’s more about throwing a strike with that pitch.”

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Command led to an efficient outing from the teenager from Calaboozo, Venezuela. He only threw 73 total pitches, including 46 strikes. He just struck out four — down from seven in his first appearance — but walked none.

Not only did he display an impressive fastball, but he threw a breaking ball around 88 mph and a changeup that was clocked at 81. Control with varying speeds is tough on hitters.

“You don’t really see that with 19-year-old kids throwing 100 miles per hour and actually knowing where it’s going,” Cedar Rapids Manager Toby Gardenhire said. “He’s a special guy. He’s got a special arm.

“I thought he did a good job (Friday night). He runs it up there. He throws really hard, so he’s always fun to watch.”

Gardenhire confirmed that the Twins have Graterol on a pitch count, resulting in him not coming out for the sixth. Graterol retired West Michigan in order three times, but Gardenhire was impressed by getting out of a third-inning jam.

“I was trying to maintain the same focus and thinking about executing a pitch, because it’s not only me playing the game,” Graterol said. “I have a lot of confidence in the guys behind my back.”

The Kernels (13-9) gave him a first-inning lead. Alex Kirilloff smacked an RBI double, scoring Akil Baddoo, who reached on a leadoff walk. They stopped producing.

“We started flailing around up there, kind of,” Gardenhire said. “We got away from our plan. We started swinging at everything. We went into autoswing.”

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Graterol was in line for the win until West Michigan’s three-run eighth. Zac Shepherd and Garrett McCain notched back-to-back hits to open the inning and tie the game. McCain scored on Luke Burch’s sacrifice bunt for a 2-1 edge. Joey Morgan added an RBI single for the Whitecaps.

Cedar Rapids will host West Michigan again Saturday, beginning at 6:35 p.m.

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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