CEDAR RAPIDS — There’s this thing that looks like the Karate Kid. It’s where he pauses with his left front leg in the air for sometimes a second, sometimes two or three seconds, before he delivers the baseball.
There’s the old quick pitch, which is the exact opposite of the Karate Kid. There are all kinds of little glove twitches and shakes.
Then there was something Andrew Cabezas pulled out in the seventh inning Wednesday afternoon at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The Cedar Rapids Kernels pitcher started going into his delivery, but just as his left foot was about to hit the dirt and the ball apparently about to come out of his hand, he somehow stopped, re-lifted his leg and re-brought back his arm.
It looked exactly as if you had hit a video rewind button. Poor Quad Cities hitter Marty Costes was so confused, he stepped out of the batter’s box, taking a breaking ball right down the middle for a called third strike.
By rule, it was a legal pitch.
“It just comes with a lot of practice,” Cabezas said, after he earned a 1-0 win. “I appreciate the Twins giving me the opportunity for a little flair, letting me do it. As long as I keep throwing strikes, they’re just going to let me keep on doing it. I know hitters don’t like it. If it’s something they don’t like, I love it.”
Hitting is timing, and pitching is trying to disrupt that timing, which is why Cabezas has so many deliveries. No two windups from him ever are the same.
Of course, he can’t do that stuff when he’s in the stretch because that’d be a balk. But when he’s not in the stretch, the fun begins.
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And Cabezas (1-3) was in the windup for almost his entire seven innings of work here, as he allowed just two baserunners, on a single and an error, striking out nine.
“I don’t want to give away my plan, but it depends on what I see,” he said, when asked if his windups are spontaneous.
The 22-year-old from Hialeah Gardens, Fla., said he started his windup game late in his career at college power Miami. An 18th-round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins last year, he experimented with things even more in Rookie ball at Elizabethton.
This was, by far, his best start of the season for the Kernels (17-22), who split this four-game series against the Midwest League’s best team. Derek Molina worked out of jams in the eighth and ninth innings for his fourth save.
Newcomer Jared Akins lined an opposite-field home run just over the tall wall in left field in the fourth inning for the game’s only run.
“That’s what he’s trying to do, disrupt the hitter’s timing,” Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman said. “We’ve talked about it before, just make sure that when he does do it, throw strikes. He’s had problems in the past, or at least a couple of starts here, where he’s had trouble throwing strikes with it. He was better today able to throw the ball over the plate and get guys out.”
Cedar Rapids plays a four-game road series at Clinton that begins Thursday.
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