DAVENPORT — Losing 20 pounds was easy for Shane Carrier. How he lost it was not.
“I got the flu in January, and that helped,” the Cedar Rapids Kernels outfielder said with a smile Thursday night, after his team’s 2-0, season-opening win over Quad Cities at Modern Woodmen Park. “Then I guess I just never really put the weight back on that I lost.”
A lighter Carrier was difference-maker Carrier as the Kernels won their Midwest League lidlifter for an eighth consecutive year. He went 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs out of the cleanup spot.
His sacrifice fly put Cedar Rapids on top right away in the top of the first inning, then he wasted a pitch from Quad Cities starting pitcher Patrick Sandoval to left field leading off the third for the game’s other run.
The 21-year-old outfielder gets a little lost in the shuffle with all of the prospects on this Kernels team. But if this is any indication, he’s poised to do some damage in his second go-around here.
Carrier split last season between the Kernels and Rookie-level Elizabethton.
“I felt good in spring training,” he said. “I wasn’t really focused on results, just focused on how I felt, my approach, which is really big for me. Slow the game down, you know? Get the juices flowing, but in the right direction.”
By the way, Carrier is listed at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, but that weight isn’t accurate. He’s lighter, thanks to that offseason “diet” and everything.
“Not like I tried to lose weight. Just got sick, that’s all,” he said. “Of course, I can feel a difference. My body’s not as tight. I can move a little bit better, can swing a little bit better. Just more agile overall.”
Four pitchers combined for a five-hit opening-night shutout for the Kernels. Starter Bryan Sammons went the first four innings, Jovani Moran walked three but struck out three in a tight fifth, Jared Finkel followed him with three good innings, and Ryan Mason worked around a leadoff hit by pitch for the save.
Finkel was credited with the win via official scorer’s decision as the most effective reliever.
“We played really good defense, did a lot of things really well,” said Toby Gardenhire, a winner in his professional managing debut. “We got ourselves in some jams, but we pitched out of it a couple of times. Finkel came in and did a really nice job for three innings, I thought. Then Mason did his job and finished it off. It was a good game.”
Third baseman Andrew Bechtold also excelled in his C.R. debut, going 2-for-2 with a pair of walks. The Kernels had the leadoff man reach base in eight innings, drew seven walks and had six hits, yet only scored twice.
But they won, and they survived their first test in cold weather. The temperature at opening pitch was 45 degrees.
“It actually was not even that cold, to be honest,” said Kernels shortstop Royce Lewis, the top-overall draft pick a year ago and Southern California resident. “The way we prepared was great. I was not cold. I was surprised.”
The teams are scheduled to play again here Friday night at 6:35.
Former University of Iowa first baseman Jake Adams went 1-for-4 with a single, strikeout and double-play grounder for Quad Cities as its cleanup hitter.
Cedar Rapids catcher Ben Rortvedt was removed from the game with one out and a runner on in the ninth inning after taking a foul tip to his right, throwing hand. Gardenhire said Rortvedt had a swollen knuckle but didn’t seem overly concerned about the injury.
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