Minor League Sports

Baseball notebook: Co-pitching coaches working just fine for Cedar Rapids Kernels

Cibney Bello, Justin Willard getting the most out of their pupils

Justin Willard
Justin Willard
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CEDAR RAPIDS — With a month to go in the season, Cedar Rapids Kernels pitchers have noticeably gotten better. And their two pitching coaches have managed to survive and thrive.

The parent Minnesota Twins named Cibney Bello and Justin Willard co-coaches here, a move initiated by new farm director Jeremy Zoll. Bello and Willard couldn’t be more different in their baseball backgrounds.

Bello is a 35-year-old Venezuelan who spent multiple years pitching professionally. Willard is not quite 10 years younger and was a college assistant coach until getting this opportunity.

He’s from Canada, by the way.

“I can’t complain about it, it has been really good,” Bello said. “We’ve been trying to put things together, sharing his ideas and my ideas. So far, it has been really good.”

“In my opinion, it has been great,” Willard agreed. “I don’t know exactly how to phrase this, but we’ll even call our pitching coordinator within 10 minutes of each other (sometimes) ... We’re on the same page with a lot of stuff. I think we’re really helping each other grow as coaches. He is really good at building relationships with guys and that kind of stuff, and I’m better on the technology side. Understanding what that means with pitcher development. I think we are a really, really good pair together and are helping each other grow.”

The theory behind co-pitching coaches is to get an extra set of eyes on pitchers. Most managers are former position players, so with them and hitting coaches, there already are four sets of eyes on hitters.

During games, Bello will be the guy going out to the mound for chats and things like that. But he and Willard confer on everything and even split media interview duties.

The Kernels went into Saturday third in the Midwest League in team earned run average and are fourth in WHIP.

“The teams are trying to do what’s best for the players,” Bello said. “I wasn’t surprised, but I wanted to know who the guy was I would be working with. Because maybe there would be some different ideas about how to do things. But after I got to know him, he made it easy. We kind of have the same ideas, both go about the same stuff, which makes it easy for him and me.”

“It probably took a couple of weeks, to be honest, then we kind of settled in a little bit and figured each other out,” Willard said. “We spent the whole spring training together, so that was a good, solid month of getting to know each other, getting to know each other’s quirks and everything. I don’t know what he thinks, but, in my opinion, this has been great.”

Scott Schebler remains shelved

Former Cedar Rapids Prairie prep Scott Schebler remains on the disabled list for the Cincinnati Reds with a right shoulder injury incurred making a catch in right field in a mid-July game.

Schebler recently completed a rehabilitation stint in the minor leagues but is still having issues throwing.

Reds Manager Jim Riggleman said Schebler, who is hitting .278 in 76 games, may not be activated from the DL until September.

Hunter Greene done for season

Dayton Dragons pitcher Hunter Greene will miss the remainder of the season with a sprained UCL in his right, throwing elbow, the parent Cincinnati Reds announced.

Greene was the second-overall draft pick last year (only behind former Kernels shortstop Royce Lewis) and had been ironing things out after a very rough start. Greene has thrown fastballs in games this season as high as 102 miles per hour.

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The Reds say the plan for Greene right now is to rest his arm, with no Tommy John surgery anticipated.

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

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