116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — COVID and concussions.
Those two things have been the primary theme for the Cedar Rapids Kernels to begin the second half of Midwest League play.
The club went into their nearly sold-out Fourth of July game against Quad Cities at Veterans Memorial Stadium with four players quarantining at home after testing positive for COVID-19.
They are pitchers Ryan Shreve, Aaron Rozek and Brent Headrick and first baseman Aaron Sabato.
Shreve and Rozek went on the injured list at the end of C.R.’s previous homestand a little over a week ago. Sabato, the parent Minnesota Twins’ top draft pick in 2020, hasn’t played since June 23 because he hadn’t been feeling well, initially tested COVID negative but was added to the IL before the team’s most-recently completed road trip to Wisconsin.
Headrick was added to the list over the weekend.
“They’re doing OK,” Manager Brian Dinkelman said. “I think the first couple of days they just didn’t feel real good, a little sick, but I think they’re all doing fine now. They just have to wait for the days to pass, and I think the rule is like 10 days or two negative tests (before they can return). Something like that.”
Dinkelman said protocols call for any player or staff member considered a “close contact” to the four to be tested. Or if any player or staff member has symptoms.
“We’ve been good so far with the rest of it,” he said. “Hopefully we caught it with just those four.”
Concussions have been the other thing.
Catcher Jeferson Morales was just activated from the IL after a concussion left him out of action for about three weeks. He started Monday night’s game.
Third baseman Christian Encarnacion-Strand went on the IL over the weekend after getting hit in the head by a pitch. He took batting practice prior to Monday night’s game, which is an encouraging sign.
Outfielder Kennie Taylor went on the IL early last week with a hamstring strain. He had been one of C.R.’s hottest hitters.
Missing three everyday players, including its top offensive weapon since the first game of the season (Encarnacion-Strand), and two starting pitchers (Rozek and Headrick) has contributed to a 3-7 start to the second half. The Kernels won the MWL’s Western Division first-half championship with a league-best 43-23 record.
Replacements for the ill and injured have been pitchers Hunter McMahon (from low-Class A Fort Myers) and Pierce Banks (from Rookie-level Florida Complex League) and infielder Jake Rucker (from Fort Myers).
“Other guys have had to step up now and play,” Dinkelman said. “We’ve had a few bullpen days (pitching-wise). Good games last week in Wisconsin, we were in every game. Just couldn’t get a hit, and they walked us off on Saturday.
“A little bit of a tough road trip, losing five of six, but the guys are still playing hard.”
The Kernels came back from a pair of solo home runs by Quad Cities in the second inning, getting a solo homer in the third from Yunior Severino and then a four-run fourth inning for a lead they would never relinquish. Seven runs in the eighth inning put the game completely away.
Seth Gray had three hits and two RBIs for Cedar Rapids. Severino, Pat Winkel and Kyler Fedko had two hits apiece for the Kernels. Bradley Hanner (5-3) got the pitching win in relief.
The teams have Tuesday off before resuming their six-game series Wednesday night.
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