CEDAR RAPIDS – THIS was the Wander Javier so many people expected to see. That the parent Minnesota Twins rather desperately needed to see.
The Cedar Rapids Kernels shortstop finally broke out Monday afternoon in his club’s 14-7 win over Lansing at Veterans Memorial Stadium, showing some of the talent that earned him a $4-million international signing bonus and made him one of Minnesota’s top minor-league prospects.
Javier’s four hits included a pair of home runs, one a grand slam, and he had six RBIs. His tailspin was so severe, 6-for-89, to be specific, his batting average had fallen all the way to .134 in the 37 games he’d played here since coming in from extended spring training. It jumped 24 points Monday.
“I’ve been making adjustments every day,” said the 20-year-old from the Dominican Republic, with the translation help of teammate Ricky De La Torre. “I’ve been working on my mechanics. My hands were up, and I have moved them down more.”
Though others were, he claimed he was never worried that things would turn around.
“If I have an at-bat where I strikeout, I just remain normal and calm,” he said, through De La Torre. “I knew that in time it was coming.”
This was just one game, so the proof of if this indeed is a turnaround, will come in the next few days. The Kernels (53-41, 14-10 second half) have Tuesday off, then begin a six-game road trip east to Lake County and Fort Wayne.
“I thought he had a little more rhythm and was on time with his swing,” Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman said. “He looked quicker today, so I don’t know if he was using his hands a little bit more or something like that ... He has been scuffling lately, hadn’t even been hitting balls hard. So for him to square up four balls today, be on time to the fastball and hit a couple of home runs, is good for him. Build some confidence and hopefully get on a roll here the next week or so.”
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Javier’s four-year career has been hampered by injuries. A torn labrum in his left, non-throwing shoulder and corresponding surgery prevented him from playing at all last season. He was a late comer to the Midwest League because of a quadriceps injury incurred in a major league spring training game.
“I feel better,” he said. “It’s tough to have injuries, but my shoulder is strong.”
A sometimes strong wind blew straight out Monday, as the teams combined for eight home runs, six by the Kernels. Gabe Snyder hit his ninth of the season, newcomers Tyler Webb, Alex Isola and Spencer Steer their first each.
Steer and Isola had three hits apiece, with the Kernels — who came into the game next to last in batting average in the Midwest League — banging out 16. An encouraging day all around.
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