116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — There haven’t been too many hitters reach base against David Festa this baseball season.
When they have gotten on, the Cedar Rapids Kernels pitcher has shown an inordinate ability to erase them.
Festa provided quite a rarity Sunday in a 9-7 loss to Peoria at Veterans Memorial Stadium, picking off three consecutive Chiefs. You ever seen that before?
“I never used to pickoff anyone,” Festa said. “I just started with a (new) move this year.”
Osvaldo Tovalin singled with one out in the top of the Peoria third but got caught leaning and was tagged out in a rundown after Festa threw to first. Francisco Hernandez then suffered the same fate after reaching on an infield hit.
Noah Medlinger singled to lead off the top of the fourth. A quick Festa move and a tag by first baseman Aaron Sabato eliminated him.
Festa has eight successful pickoffs in 10 appearances for the Kernels, an extraordinary number. Even more extraordinary considering he’s right-handed.
By the way, Wade Stauss singled after the Mendlinger pickoff. Festa threw over to first twice, but Stauss was pretty much tethered to the bag.
Thrice bitten, fourth time shy.
“He’s got a quick move to first,” said Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman. “I know they’re an aggressive team that likes to steal bases. He did a nice job of picking them off. Caught them leaning a couple of times. I don’t know if I’ve seen that before.”
Festa (6-1) incurred his first loss since being promoted to the Midwest League from low-A Fort Myers, giving up nine hits and six runs in four-plus innings. He was removed after giving up a leadoff single in the fifth and going to a 3-1 count on the next hitter because of a shoulder issue.
Festa’s velocity has reached 99 miles per hour but was down a couple ticks in this game, as he generally pitched 94 mph with his fastball.
He said the shoulder has been acting up this month, and he was going to get checked out by a doctor on Monday’s off day as a precaution. A jump in his velocity from his college days at Seton Hall has vaulted the 22-year-old from anonymous 13th-round draft pick in 2021 to prospect status.
“Honestly for a few weeks now, but usually by the time of my outing, I’m feeling good,” he said. “My velocity was down on all three of my pitches. We talked before the inning (about coming out).”
The Kernels (55-35, 12-11 second half) were swept in this brief three-game series that came after four days off in correspondence with the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
Cedar Rapids lost twice by 9-7 scores, with the other game finishing 14-10.
“They hit the ball well,” Dinkelman said. “Any time we made a mistake, they took advantage of it with a base hit or a home run, something like that. Sometimes that’s how baseball goes. One week you are winning ballgames, the next week you can’t win a ballgame. Tough series.”
The Kernels head to Wisconsin for a six-game series that begins Tuesday night. Dinkelman said Bobby Hearn will join the club by then as a co-pitching coach.
Hearn has been working with pitchers in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League and will replace Mark Moriarty, who left the Minnesota Twins organization last week to take a job as pitching coach for the University of Nevada.
Moriarty was in his second season with the Kernels, sharing pitching-coach duties with Richard Salazar, who remains with the club. The Twins major league pitching coach, Wes Anderson, left pro ball recently to take the pitching coach job at LSU.
“Hate to see Mark leave. We loved having Mark around,” Dinkelkman said. “But an opportunity for him to bolster his career and family (considerations), stuff like that, (made it) hard to say no.”
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