Mechanical tweaks paying off for Thorpe

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Even the resident big-leaguer was impressed with Cedar Rapids pitcher Lewis Thorpe.

The 18-year-old Australian lefty struck out seven and yielded just two hits and an unearned run in a season-high six innings last night as the Kernels edged Kane County, 3-2, before the largest crowd of the season (5,570) at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

“He threw the ball well,” said Minnesota Twins star Joe Mauer, who continued his rehabilitation stint with two singles in four at-bats. “His curveball looks pretty nasty. Mixing speeds, and a pretty good pickoff move I found out. It was good.”

Thorpe (3-2) credited some mechanical tweaks during a visit from Twins minor league pitching coordinator Eric Rasmussen.

“To speed things up,” Thorpe said. “Come through more instead of coming out wide and down. Zoning is another thing — a big key for this organization.”

Thorpe and Mauer combined on the aforementioned pickoff to nab base runner Carlos Penalver leading off first in the third. That probably wasn’t on Mauer’s rehab checklist, nor was a play at home while trying to add an insurance run on an Alex Swim bouncer to second with the bases loaded in the eighth. Catcher Ben Carhart toed the plate as Mauer was sliding home for the force out.

“That’s what’s funny about this game,” said Mauer, who played all nine innings at first base for the second night in a row. “You never know what’s going to happen. Those weren’t two that were on there, but we got ’em through no problem.”

Cedar Rapids (59-59, 28-20 second half) is tied for first with Kane County in the Midwest League West. Max Murphy broke a 1-1 tie and extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a two-run home run in the bottom of fifth.

The teams play again today at 2. Another rehabbing Twin — pitcher Ricky Nolasco — will start and is expected to throw 75 pitches. Mauer said a determination on his status for today’s game would be made this morning.

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