CEDAR RAPIDS — Once it finished tied through nine innings, the Eastern Division winning Tuesday night’s Midwest League All-Star Game was a sure Betts.
Bowling Green catcher Chris Betts topped Kane County’s Blaze Alexander, 2-1, in a 90-second, sudden-death Home Run Derby that made the East the winner of the game at South Bend, Ind. The final score was 4-3.
Betts won Monday night’s official Home Run Derby, thus was an obvious pick Tuesday by East Division Manager Buddy Bailey of South Bend.
“There was a lot more tension in the sudden-death to decide the All-Star Game winner than in the Home Run Derby,” Bailey told MiLB.com. “In the Home Run Derby, nobody is pulling against you. Everybody is pulling for you. Here, their whole team is standing a few feet away, hooting and hollering, trying to get in your head.”
Betts, 22, was a second-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2015 out of a high school in California. He has been plagued by elbow injuries that have twice required surgery.
He finished the first half of the Midwest League season hitting .223 with 12 home runs in 59 games for Bowling Green.
“This is so special,” he told MiLB.com. “It really means so much to me. I’ve had quite the support system, from my parents, my girlfriend .. the training staff and everybody with the Rays stayed with me and allowed me to get to this point.
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“There are a lot of organizations, after two elbow surgeries, I don’t get back to this point. The Rays have kept the faith and let me do my thing and get healthy and come and show what they drafted me for.”
The Western Division tied the game, 3-3, with a run in the eighth inning. Instead of going to extra innings, or declaring the game a tie, the unique twist to deciding a winner was the one-on-one Home Run Derby.
The Cedar Rapids Kernels had three players in the game. Chris Williams started for the West at designated hitter and went 0-for-3 with a walk, Gabe Snyder came on as a reserve at first base and went 0-for-2, and pitcher Josh Winder threw to two batters in the fifth inning and struck them both out.
More roster upheaval for Kernels
If there was one constant for the Cedar Rapids Kernels in the first half, it was an active roster that was constantly in flux. The Kernels used 42 players in the half, a higher-than-normal number, and the turnover has continued the first couple days of the second half.
Relief pitchers Derek Molina and Zach Neff were promoted to high-Class A Fort Myers, as were third baseman Andrew Bechtold and outfielder Gabriel Maciel. Starting pitcher Kody Funderburk (oblique) and infielder Ricky De La Torre (hamstring) were hurt in Thursday night’s game at Peoria and placed on the Injured List.
To replace them, the Kernels received pitchers Tyler Palm and Tanner Howell from Fort Myers, catcher Trevor Casanova from Rookie-level Elizabethton, infielder Daniel Ozoria from E-town and pitcher Petru Balan from the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Twins. Palm pitched here earlier this season, but the other four are newbies, increasing C.R.’s total of players used this season for 46.
Balan, interestingly, is from the country of Moldova in Eastern Europe.
Scott Schebler back in action
This was a spate of good news in a season that hasn’t had much for Scott Schebler. The outfielder and Cedar Rapids Prairie graduate homered Thursday for the Triple-A Louisville Bats in his return from the Injured List.
Schebler was sidelined for two weeks with an oblique strain. The 28-year-old began this season as a starting center fielder for the Cincinnati Reds but struggled at the plate and was sent down to the minor leagues.
Schebler went into Friday hitting .252 in 31 games for Louisville.
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