Hu is the man again for first-place Kernels

Another quality start in 6-1 win over Burlington

The affiliate switch to the Minnesota Twins has afforded new merchandising opportunities for the Cedar Rapids Kernels as the old Angels logo is fading away from Veterans Memorial Stadium. ¬ Photo taken Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013 in Cedar Rapids. (Chris Earl/The Gazette-KCRG)

CEDAR RAPIDS – That haircut. Oh, that haircut.

Chih-Wei Hu has the sides and back of his head shaved. The rest of his hair is long, flopping from side to side over the shaved parts, kind of like a comb-over gone badly wrong.

Let’s just say it’s quite the coiffure.

“We asked him if he got into a fight with a razor,” said Cedar Rapids Kernels Manager Jake Mauer. “I don’t think he understood what we were saying.”

Hu is from Taiwan, so perhaps it’s a popular hairdo back home. And if he keeps pitching the way he has, no one cares what he looks like.

The guy has been an absolute ace since coming here from Rookie ball earlier in July, improving to 4-0 with six more great innings in a 6-1 Kernels win Thursday night over Burlington at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The 20-year-old right-hander doesn’t wow you with his stuff, but throws strikes and changes speeds and location like a big leaguer.

He gave up just three hits and a walk Thursday night, lowering his earned run average to 1.50. In 30 innings, he has allowed just 18 hits and six walks, striking out 29.

Hu doesn’t speak much English but definitely understands how to pitch.

“To be honest, I didn’t know much about him,” Mauer said. “He has thrown in some international competition, so I knew he wasn’t going to be overwhelmed by being here and pitching under the lights and all that. Did I think he’d have the ERA he does? I don’t think so.

“But he has gone six or seven innings every time he is out there (five starts) and been dominant. He doesn’t have dominant stuff, but he challenges guys, goes right at them … He pitches like he’s a lot older than 20.”

The Kernels (54-55, 23-16) are alone in first place in the Midwest League’s Western Division after their 16th win in their last 20 games. Mitch Garver’s team-leading 15th home run, a two-run shot, gave them a 2-0 lead after an inning.

Another newcomer, Max Murphy, added his first longball in the sixth, an impressive shot over the 400-foot sign in dead center. He was hitting .371 at Rookie-level Elizabethton when he was summoned here four days ago.

Cedar Rapids will make a roster move before Friday night’s game at Beloit, as starting pitcher Aaron Slegers has been promoted to high-Class A Fort Myers. He went 7-7 with a 4.53 ERA in 20 starts, including compiling a 1.96 ERA in six good July starts.

Joining the club will be left-handed starting pitcher Matt Batts. He was a 17th-round draft pick of the parent Minnesota Twins in June out of North Carolina-Wilmington and has gone 2-1 with a 1.41 ERA in seven combined games for Elizabethton and the Gulf Coast League Twins.

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