116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Kernels look forward, not back on poor 1st half
CEDAR RAPIDS - He looked worn out, as if he hadn't slept in a few days. Perhaps a few weeks.
"My plane leaves in four hours," Cedar Rapids Kernels Manager Brent Del Chiaro said late Sunday afternoon. "I've got to get away for a little while."
Del Chiaro was headed home to California for a couple of days to rest, relax and regroup. His first go-round as a professional baseball skipper hasn't gone quite as smoothly as anticipated.
There are a million things you've got to do as manager, a zillion little details to take care of. That's difficult enough.
Then when you're not winning ...
"A learning experience," Del Chiaro said of his club's first-half record of 32-38. "It's been a good test of patience. It's been a good test of my character, my will to continue to work hard. We could have cashed it in two weeks ago. My goal is to get these guys better. Bottom line. If I don't get them better, I've failed personally and I've failed them."
Three Kernels were selected for Tuesday night's Midwest League All-Star Game in Davenport: starting outfielder Travis Witherspoon and pitchers Max Russell and Dakota Robinson. Witherspoon was to take part in a home-run derby/hitting contest Monday night.
The second half begins Friday night at Beloit, with the Kernels seeking some consistency. They began the first half with a 20-10 record but closed 12-28 to fall into also-ran status in the Western Division.
Burlington won the division with Quad Cities taking second place and the final first-half playoff spot.
"We started out great, then we hit the skids a little bit," said pitcher Brian Diemer. "We learned from that, that you can never put the breaks on, so to speak. You can never relax, you've got to keep pushing harder."
Diemer is part of a pretty good starting rotation that kept the team in games despite a MWL-worst .227 team batting average. Still, the pitching was not as sharp the final two to three weeks of the first half, and the Kernels finished 11th out of 16 teams in earned run average.
The leading hitter of the everyday players was third baseman Ricky Alvarez at .265.
"Our pitching has had a rough patch the past couple weeks. But for me, that's expected when the offense has been as anemic as it has been all year," Del Chiaro said. "To their credit, there has been no division within the clubhouse. They've continued to play, continued to try and pick up their teammates. That's good to see."
Then there are the physical and mental mistakes the club has regularly made the past month. In short, a lot needs to change if the Kernels want to contend for a playoff spot in the second half.
They know that.
"You can expect a different team, as far as a lot more energy, a team that's going to be hungry to get into the playoffs," Witherspoon said. "As an organization, that's what we pride ourselves on, getting into the playoffs. That first half was a disappointment, but we're going to learn from our mistakes and get into the playoffs in the second half."
"I would say you can expect more intensity," Diemer said. "We're going to come out really trying. We don't like losing. I know the fans don't like seeing it, we hate it just as much ... So I think you'll see us play that much harder, try to do that much more to get wins."