CEDAR RAPIDS — If you were a member of the Cedar Rapids Kernels to end the first half of the Midwest League and are still here, please raise your hand. A head count is needed.
The second half of the season begins Thursday night at home against Beloit, and there will be a bunch of new guys in the lineup and on the mound.
The parent Minnesota Twins have promoted pitchers Fernando Romero and Michael Theofanopoulos, catcher A.J. Murray and outfielder LaMonte Wade to high-Class A Fort Myers. Wade and Murray played in Tuesday night’s MWL All-Star Game at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
That’s taking away the Kernels’ leading home run and RBI guy (Murray), their top on-base percentage and OPS guy (Wade), their best starting pitcher (Romero) and best reliever (Theofanopoulos). It is about player development, you know.
It’s still a tough break from a potential win-loss standpoint for the Kernels, who finished the first half 36-33. Cedar Rapids had a very untimely six-game losing streak and dropped eight of its final 11 first-half games to miss out on clinching a playoff spot.
Peoria and Clinton got those in the Western Division. Over in the East, it was South Bend and West Michigan.
“The week before our losing streak we didn’t play too good,” said Kernels Manager Jake Mauer. “Everything was real difficult for us. From scoring runs to even getting guys on base. It just got real tough. Then we didn’t pitch real well in certain spots. We didn’t pitch well when we hit, and when we did pitch well, we didn’t hit. It was kind of everything.”
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The Twins did assign catcher Brian Olson from Fort Myers to Cedar Rapids to take Murray’s spot on the active roster. Outfielder Austin Diemer is back, too, from extended spring training.
He played part of last season for the Kernels and hit .167 in 30 games this season at Fort Myers. Two pitching additions will be coming as well, though they haven’t been announced.
“A lot of guys had decent first halves, decent starts for us,” Mauer said. “We look for the guys who maybe aren’t where they want to be to kind of pick it up here. We just need guys to kind of just lead us. That was really the first losing these guys have been through. It’s a good experience for them, a good learning opportunity. We just need some guys to be willing to step up. When the chips are down to lead us through. That’s whether it’s a pitcher or a position player.”
On the positive side, two MWL All-Stars still remain with the Kernels in second baseman Luis Arraez and starting pitcher Sam Clay. Arraez leads the team with a .314 batting average, while Clay is 4-4 with a 2.83 earned run average in 12 starts.
Infielders Sean Miller and Nelson Molina, first baseman Zander Wiel and outfielder Daniel Kihle had their moments in the first half and will be counted upon heavily in the second half. Williams Ramirez and Michael Cederoth likely will play important roles in the back end of the bullpen, while the starting rotation should still be OK with guys like Clay, Cody Stashak and Miles Nordgren around.
“Part of it late was fatigue, I think. Guys were maybe a little tired,” Mauer said. “But that’s part of why they’re here, to go through this. They’ve got to understand they’ve still got 70 games to go.”
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