Minor League Sports

Acquired from the Yankees, Cedar Rapids Kernels pitcher Luis Rijo might just be a prospect

Throws 7 strong innings in 6-1 win over Wisconsin

Cedar Rapids Kernels' Luis Rijo (39) pitches against Bowling Green Hot Rods in the first game of their doubleheader at V
Cedar Rapids Kernels' Luis Rijo (39) pitches against Bowling Green Hot Rods in the first game of their doubleheader at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, May 1, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Guys that put up good numbers at the Midwest League level aren’t always true, legit major league prospects. One guy that has sort of flown under the radar this season who just might be a legit prospect is Luis Rijo.

“I see it. Yeah, I see it,” Cedar Rapids Kernels pitching coach Virgil Vasquez said Thursday night, after Rijo pitched his team to a 6-1 victory over Wisconsin at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Just 20 years old, the right-hander from Venezuela was acquired last season from the New York Yankees for big league pitcher Lance Lynn. He has been with the Kernels since opening day and put up 14 mostly good starts.

The earned run average after his seven innings here dropped to 2.55. He has given up just 64 hits in 77 2/3 innings.

The scouting report on him was a fastball that is low-90s, but he has been able to goose that to mid-90s rather consistently. For instance, his final pitch Thursday night was a 96 mph heater that struck out Wisconsin’s Je’Von Ward swinging.

“His velo has gone up since last year,” Vasquez said. “His first game back in April, he was 96, and I was like ‘Who is that? I’ve never seen that before.’ Then it kind of went down, now it’s back up. That’s one thing he’s kind of harnessing right now. He’s learning how to throw a strike with the lower-90s and then getting the strikeout, getting aggressive with a pitch that’s a little bit harder.”

Vasquez said fellow pitching coach Jared Gaynor has been working with Rijo on a changeup that Vasquez noted was pretty good against Wisconsin. He also throws a curveball that is a solid pitch.

There are some things to like here.


“There’s not much you are going to change in that guy,” Vasquez said. “He already has a good delivery, he throws the ball well, has a good curveball and a good fastball. Him and Jared have been working on the change, and that’s kind of coming along. The total package. Now it’s ‘OK, how do I use that against hitters?’”

The Kernels (58-44, 19-13 second half) scored four times in the first inning, including a three-run home run from Wander Javier. The teams play again Saturday night at 6:35.

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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