Minor League Sports

Cedar Rapids Kernels in town, roster not announced, but it looks like a lot of returning players

Blayne Enlow

Kernels pitcher
Blayne Enlow Kernels pitcher

CEDAR RAPIDS — You don’t have to get to know them, because you already do. At least most of them.

The Cedar Rapids Kernels flew into town in two shifts Sunday afternoon. The parent Minnesota Twins won’t release the official opening-day roster until sometime Monday morning, but you could piece most of it together by who you saw in the Veterans Memorial Stadium home clubhouse.

Let’s just say there were a lot of familiar faces: 15 guys who saw time at various points here last season, including nine position players. Experience is abound.

The Kernels begin at home Thursday night against Peoria.

“We have some exciting young players: a couple of guys in the outfield and the infield,” first-year Manager Brian Dinkelman. “I’m really excited about our pitching staff. We’ve got some good arms, both in the starting rotation and coming out of the bullpen. We had a good spring training, most of the guys are here. We’re ready to roll.”

Dinkelman said not every pitcher made it in Sunday. The Twins held a couple back at their minor league complex in Fort Myers, Fla., to get some work in, since they won’t be needed with Cedar Rapids until this coming weekend or later.

Blayne Enlow is likely to get the start on opening night. Baseball America’s No. 8 Twins prospect made 17 starts last season for C.R. as a 19-year-old and had a solid earned run average of 3.26.

Fellow right-hander Jordan Balazovic, also just 20, will be part of the rotation as well. He won seven of his 11 starts for the Kernels last season.

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Dinkelman mentioned righties Cole Sands, Luis Rijo, Josh Winder and Andrew Cabezas as rotation pieces. Other pitchers who were around Sunday were Carlos Suniaga, Zach Neff, Joe Record, Jose Martinez, Austin Schulfer, Brian Rapp, Tyler Palm and Derek Molina.

The 12 position players appear to be David Banuelos and Ben Rodriguez (catcher), Trey Cabbage and Chris Williams (first base), Yunior Severino, Joe Cronin, Andrew Bechtold and Michael Davis (infield) and Jean Carlos Arias, Gilberto Celestino, Jacob Pearson and DaShawn Keirsey (outfield). Banuelos, Rodriguez, Cabbage, Cronin, Bechtold, Davis, Arias and Pearson all played here in the regular season, while Severino (Baseball America’s No. 10 Twins prospect) was added to the roster for the playoffs.

He and Wander Javier (No. 4 by BA) should form quite a middle-infield combo at some point. Javier missed all of last season with a shoulder injury and was held back in extended spring training for the beginning of this season with a minor quad issue.

He will join the Kernels sooner than later.

“It’s one thing to say we have a lot of guys back,” Dinkelman said. “But we have a good system overall, a lot of good players. So sometimes you get, I wouldn’t say a backjam, but it’s just a chance for them to continue to play every day and keep getting better, maybe move up as the season goes on.”

The Kernels are scheduled to play nine of their first 11 Midwest League game at home, though a series at Quad Cities from April 15 through 17 also could be moved to Veterans Memorial Stadium because of flooding in Davenport that is expected to besiege Modern Woodmen Park, which borders the Mississippi River.

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

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