116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The days of seeing position players pitching in a minor-league baseball game are over.
If it happens, something truly extraordinary led to it. Especially when it comes to the Cedar Rapids Kernels.
The Kernels lost Sunday afternoon at Veterans Memorial Stadium to Wisconsin, 6-4. Six guys took the mound for the Kernels in the game, all actual pitchers.
There are a whopping 18 of them on the active roster. Eighteen!
“It’s good to have that many because you don’t have to worry about being short and letting guys stay out there longer than they need to,” said Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman. “So that’s the good thing about it.”
In most past seasons, teams at this level carried 12 to 13 pitchers. But not having a 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic created these super-sized staffs.
Guys needed to be eased back into things because of the year off. You just weren’t going to overwork them, pile up the innings on them.
Most Midwest League staffs are around the 15-pitcher area. That’s the number Wisconsin had in this series.
The parent Minnesota Twins have decided for the time being to give Cedar Rapids more than that. The Kernels have seven starters that pitch once a week (Brent Headrick and David Festa are tandem starters).
The other 11 guys get work in when they can in relief. There is no set schedule, per se.
“We know who our six starters are. We’ve got technically right now with Headrick and Festa piggybacking the last two weeks,” Dinkelman said. “Then the bullpen guys, most of them aren’t really scheduled, maybe one or two of them. The rest is about where we’re at in the game, matchups here and there. You use guys that you feel match up well against the other team.”
It’s got to be difficult for co-pitching coaches Mark Moriarty and Richard Salazar to juggle everything and everyone.
“It’s not easy,” Dinkelman said. “We try to get guys in there. They’re rested, give them an opportunity to pitch. Try and get everyone at least one, maybe two outings a week, just depending on how the flow of the games are going.”
These teams split their six-game series, with Cedar Rapids (29-16) maintaining the one-game lead on Wisconsin for first place in the Midwest League’s Western Division it held coming into the week. The Timber Rattlers hit three home runs, including a wind-aided three-run job by Tristan Peters in the fourth inning that provided the difference.
The Kernels rallied late, stranding the tying runs on base in the eighth. In the ninth, they loaded the bases with one out, but Wisconsin closer Cam Robinson struck out Seth Gray and Aaron Sabato to end the game and pick up his league-best 10th save.
Anthony Prato had three hits, including a home run and triple, and walked for Cedar Rapids, which heads to the road for 12-straight games: six at Lansing and six at South Bend. There are 21 games remaining in the MWL’s first half.
“Good series,” Dinkelman said. “Went back and forth: one, one, one, one. It’d have been nice to get the last one today and win the series. Had a chance late, just couldn’t get the big hit there to win it. Good series, that’s a good team over there, so good to split with them.
“We’ve put ourselves in a chance to make the playoffs here.”
The club activated outfielder-catcher Jeferson Morales before Sunday’s game. Outfielder Willie Joe Garry Jr. was placed on the IL before Saturday’s game with a broken hand incurred in a collision with the fence in Friday night’s game.
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