Chris Ibarra gets his chance in affiliated baseball; C.R. Kernels lose, 3-1

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Chris Ibarra was in the original starting lineup for the Cedar Rapids Kernels the day after his contract was purchased from an independent team in early June by the Minnesota Twins but had to be removed because he hadn’t officially been added to the C.R. roster.

The processing of paper work was snail’s pace, preventing Ibarra’s addition and eventual debut for four days. And the dude couldn’t have cared less.

“At least I get to play, you know?” said Ibarra, who went 2-for-4 in the Kernels’ 3-1 loss Thursday night to Bowling Green at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

It took a circuitous route for the infielder to get to play affiliated professional baseball.

He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 32nd round after his junior season at LSU in 2013 but decided to go back to school. No one drafted him as a senior, and he joined the other side of the game as a graduate assistant coach for the Tigers in 2015.

But the itch to play again was strong. He signed with the Amarillo Thunderheads of the American Association last summer and moved with their coach to the Lincoln Saltdogs this season.

“I missed it a lot,” Ibarra said. “I saw the team, how much fun they had during the season. That was one of the main reasons I came back and started playing again. Just because I wanted to be part of a group again, try and win some games. Other than that, when you’re coaching, you’ve got to have a lot of patience. A lot of patience. You see mistakes from the other side of it, and you’re like ‘Oh, my God.’”

Ibarra was hitting .371 through 19 games when the Twins picked him up. He’s had a much tougher time at the plate here, coming into Thursday’s game with a .127 batting average in 16 games.

The 23-year-old California native said there’s a noticeable difference in pitchers’ velocities between independent ball and affiliated ball. He has had multiple hits or walks in his last three games, though, so he appears to be getting adjusted.

Ibarra is an asset defensively, with the ability to play third base, second base and shortstop. He should get more playing time with the recent loss of shortstop Jermaine Palacios to a broken hand bone.

“No, I don’t regret it,” he said, of not originally signing with Pittsburgh. “I’m here now. It all paid off, I got my degree. I had to work my way up from the bottom, but I’m glad that I’m here now.”

The Kernels (51-45, 15-12) dropped their second straight to a red-hot Bowling Green team that has won nine in a row. Pitcher Dereck Rodriguez (2-11) had a start that summed up his hard-luck season, not allowing a baserunner until the fifth inning or a hit until the sixth, yet still suffering the loss.

Manny Sanchez homered for a fourth-straight game, a solo shot to left field that put Bowling Green ahead in the seventh, 2-1. The Hot Rods added an insurance run against Rodriguez in the eighth.

The teams conclude their three-game series Friday night at 6:35.

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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