116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — He was done.
Jon Keller had a bad pitching outing for the Double-A Bowie Baysox the middle of last season. Make that the latest in a string of bad pitching outings.
The former Cedar Rapids Xavier prep was having repeated struggles throwing strikes. The game had gone from being fun to one he was scared about playing.
And seriously contemplating quitting.
'Yeah, I was close,' Keller said. 'I talked to my parents. This was going to be the year, man. I said if it happened again, I was not going to be upset about hanging it up.'
He didn't hang it up, and that's despite more control issues this season. It got so bad at Bowie for the 24-year-old right-hander, he asked the parent Baltimore Orioles if he could get some help, take a timeout mentally and regroup.
They obliged, setting him up with the big league team's sports psychologist, Dr. David McDuff. He went to extended spring training in Florida and was tutored by pitching coach Mark Hendrickson.
'It was all mental work,' Keller said. 'I didn't pick up a ball for nine days.'
He had a 30-day rehabilitation stint at Shortseason-A Aberdeen that went great. Keller made 10 relief appearances, giving up just five hits and a run in 16 1/3 innings.
Most importantly, he only walked four. Keller has been bumped up to high-A Frederick, where he hasn't been scored upon in two appearances.
Quitting isn't an option.
'There's just something about the new me, I guess you could say, that I haven't had those thoughts at all anymore,' Keller said. 'I think those thoughts might have been a little rushed because of how bad I was doing. But I'm over those now, for sure.'
The thing is Keller still has plenty of stuff. He regularly pitches in the mid-90s with his fastball and has touched the upper-90s.
At one time, he was considered an Orioles prospect. He wants to get back to that point.
'I think the big thing has been not to be scared, just go right after hitters,' he said. 'If I throw a bad pitch, I trust in my mechanics, and I'm a lot stronger mentally to flush that right away. Just get right back up there and throw a strike instead of hoping to throw a strike. Just pitching like a bulldog instead of being timid.'
Half the battle in the minor leagues is dealing with failure. Most of these guys have never had any.
Keller couldn't agree more.
'I've always heard people say your mind controls your body,' he said. 'I have always been so blessed to be physically gifted. I never really had (rough spots) in any of the sports that I played. Last year, when I was struggling was completely new to me.
'I wasn't having fun. I'd go to the field, and the games where I had a chance to pitch were not really fun. Now it's back. I'm wanting to pitch, and I'm enjoying it.'
INDEPENDENT LEAGUE SIGNEE JOINS KERNELS
The Cedar Rapids Kernels activated outfielder Jimmy Kerrigan to the roster before Saturday night's home game against Clinton.
Kerrigan's contract was purchased by the parent Minnesota Twins earlier this from River City of the independent Frontier League. Kerrigan hit .328 in 62 games for the Rascals, with 10 home runs and 47 RBIs.
Kerrigan played college baseball at Virginia Commonwealth. In a corresponding move, the Twins released infielder Andre Jernigan off the Kernels roster. He hit .157 in 16 games for Cedar Rapids.
HUNTER EXPECTED IN CEDAR RAPIDS
Former longtime popular big league outfielder Torii Hunter is expected to be in town sometime during this seven-game homestand to observe and work with the Kernels.
Hunter is a special assistant to Twins General Manager Thad Levine and also has done television work for the Twins. He played 19 years in the majors for the Twins, Los Angeles Angels and Detroit Tigers, retiring after the 2015 season.
HOW THEY'RE DOING
Jake Adams (University of Iowa) — First baseman hit his seventh home run of the season Friday night for Shortseason-A Tri-City (Astros). Has a .190 batting average in 27 games, with 16 RBIs.
Joel Booker (University of Iowa) — Outfielder hitting .186 in 26 games for high-A Winston-Salem (White Sox). Hitting .277 in 91 games this season between Winston-Salem and low-A Kannapolis.
Matt Dermody (University of Iowa) — Has been recalled to the big leagues by the Toronto Blue Jays. Has pitched in three games this season for Toronto: 2/3 of an inning, allowing five runs.
Ryan Erickson (University of Iowa) — Allowed eight hits and four runs in an inning Friday for Arizona Rookie League White Sox. Has 9.28 ERA in eight games overall, with a save.
Blake Hickman (University of Iowa) — Started Friday night for low-A Kannapolis (White Sox) and did not allow a run in six innings. Is 3-5 with a 3.86 ERA in 11 starts this season.
Jon Keller (Cedar Rapids Xavier) — A 30-day injury rehab stint at Shortseason-A Aberdeen (Orioles) has ended, with him throwing 1 2/3 innings of shutout ball in two appearances since for low-A Frederick.
Mitch Keller (Cedar Rapids Xavier) — Seven innings, five hits and two runs allowed in his last start for high-A Bradenton (Pirates). Is 6-3 with a 3.11 ERA in 16 overall starts.
Derrick Loveless (Solon) — Outfielder hitting .255 in 53 games for Double-A New Hampshire (Blue Jays), with 16 RBIs.
Mason McCoy (University of Iowa) — Shortstop with Shortseason-A Aberdeen (Orioles) is hitting .288 in 21 games, with 14 RBIs.
Tyler Peyton (University of Iowa) — Pitcher got a start this week for low-A South Bend (Cubs) and allowed seven hits and a run in five innings. Is 2-3 with a 3.93 ERA in 13 games, three starts overall.
A.J. Puk (Cedar Rapids Washington) — Rebounded nicely in his last start for Double-A Midland (Athletics), giving up just three hits and a run in five innings. Since his promotion from high-A, is 1-3 with a 5.92 ERA in six starts.
Scott Schebler (Cedar Rapids Prairie) — Cincinnati Reds outfielder hit his 23rd home run of the season Friday night. Hitting .232 in 99 games, with 45 RBIs.
Jake Yacinich (University of Iowa) — Shortstop called up from high-A to Triple-A Salt Lake (Angels) to help with injuries. Is 1-for-9 with a RBI.
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