CEDAR RAPIDS — This was not the Felix Jorge everyone saw last season for the Cedar Rapids Kernels, and that was a good thing.
The Dominican pitcher provided a great thing Monday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium, specifically seven outstanding innings in his club’s 9-0 thrashing of Beloit. The Kernels are 5-0.
Jorge made eight largely forgettable starts in 2014 for the Kernels, getting lit up to the tune of a 9.00 earned run average and .354 opponent batting average. Battered and bruised, the parent Minnesota Twins sent him back down to Rookie-level Elizabethton, where he pitched in 2013, to try and re-establish himself as a prospect.
“They told me I needed to work on my control,” he said, with the help of teammate J.J. Fernandez. “It was tough to go there, but I knew I needed to work on some things and then come back up here.”
Kernels pitching coach Henry Bonilla worked with him last season at E-town and helped him pick up the pieces.
“No, I didn’t pick them up, he did,” Bonilla countered. “We kind of gave him advice on things that we saw. Sometimes kids keep going their own way. But to his credit, he is the one who has made those changes. He made a couple of mechanical adjustments to kind of throw the ball down a little easier. He was willing and open to doing that stuff. I’m really happy for him. He’s open to new things, and that can be scary sometimes for a player.”
Jorge, a lanky right-hander, has a tendency to pitch up in the strike zone, which isn’t good, no matter what level you are at. He generally kept the ball down Monday night, flashing a low-90s fastball and nasty slider that helped him strike out 10.
He allowed just a pair of hits.
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“That was really good,” he said on his own. “My fastball and slider were working. It was those pitches.”
“Great start,” said Kernels Manager Jake Mauer. “To see his poise and the look in his eyes, it was a lot different than when he took the mound out here last year. That’s a testament to him. He went down to E-town and worked his tail off. He regained his confidence, his fastball command is better. He kind of used their aggressiveness against them, moving that fastball around and getting outs early.”
Jorge threw 86 pitches, working out of a two-on, no-out predicament in the seventh.
“He was good, man,” Bonilla said. “He threw the ball down well, consistently well. He elevated a few balls, but he made the adjustment well. He spun it, slowed it down. He did everything we kind of teach. All the good stuff you want your starter to do, he did tonight.”
The same could be said for the Kernels’ lineup, too. It produced 14 hits, including the first two home runs of the season: by Tyler Kuresa (a two-run shot in the second) and Pat Kelly (a three-run blast in the third).
Outfielder Max Murphy came into the game as the only Kernel not to have a hit this season (0 for 9), but ended that skid with a flourish, going 3-for-5 with a triple.
The teams conclude their three-game series Tuesday night at 6:35.
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