Minor League Sports

Cedar Rapids Kernels reliever Tyler Palm takes the road far less traveled to affiliated baseball

CEDAR RAPIDS — Everyone in Tyler Palm’s family knew but him. And his father.

“My dad’s a blabbermouth, so nobody told him,” the Cedar Rapids Kernels pitcher said, after his team’s 4-1 loss Tuesday night to Kane County at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

This was early last June, and Palm was dealing in his start for a team called the Eastside Diamond Hoppers of the independent United Shore Professional Baseball League in Michigan. After he was pulled from the game, he went to the team’s locker room, only to be summoned by his manager.

Palm assumed his pitching coach, Justin Orenduff, who is Director of Baseball Operations for the developmental USPBL, wanted to talk to him about his outing. Once he saw his family on the field, he knew it was something different.

The Minnesota Twins had offered him a contract, and everyone knew except Palm. To keep the big news a secret, his dad, Richard, hadn’t been told until earlier that day.

“Just awesome,” Palm said. “Everybody dreams about getting to affiliated ball and then working their way up. It was a moment that I was just able to enjoy. Most of the time, it’s like, 'hey, you did a good job. Now refocus.' That was like, 'hey, enjoy this for the rest of the night. You are taking a step in the right direction. Tomorrow you can think about getting work done.'”

A 6-foot-9 right-hander, Palm signed and was assigned to Rookie ball, where he helped pitch the Elizabethton Twins to the Appalachian League championship. He is with Cedar Rapids this season and has allowed one earned run over seven innings in his two appearances.

That included going four innings in relief Tuesday, giving up two hits and a run, striking out four.

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“It’s just cool to come from a different background,” he said. Not everybody has the same road.”

Palm, 24, pitched collegiately at Oakland University in Michigan, though his senior season in 2017 was sabotaged by shoulder issues. That turned out to be because of faulty mechanics, which were fixed thanks to Orenduff, whom Palm calls a “guru.”

“I went from throwing decently hard to not hard at all,” he said.

Then back again to throwing hard, actually harder, with his new delivery. His fastball is of the lower-90s variety, and he throws a changeup and two types of sliders.

“I haven’t had shoulder pain since,” Palm said. “So it’s been like night and day.”

The Kernels (1-5) dropped their fourth straight here despite outhitting Kane County, 9-5. They seemed to be one hit away all night.

Chris Williams went 3-for-4 for Cedar Rapids, which hosts Kane County again Wednesday night. Starting pitcher Luis Rijo threw well in his Kernels debut, though took the unfortunate loss.

“They’re competing,” Manager Brian Dinkelman said. “The last couple games, we’ve hit the ball well. We just haven’t had a ton of luck finding many holes. Same thing tonight. Hit some balls hard but right at them. I feel like our pitching has been good, guys are throwing the ball well. Just haven’t gotten the bats to go our way, yet.”

As expected, the Midwest League announced Tuesday that a three-game series between the Kernels and Quad Cities scheduled for April 15-17 will be played at Veterans Memorial Stadium instead of Davenport’s Modern Woodmen Field. Flooding of the adjacent Mississippi River has now allowed Quad Cities to have any home games thus far this season.

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The River Bandits actually will be considered the home team for the series, with the Kernels hitting first, etc. It will be part of what is now a virtually-unheard-of 13-game homestand for Cedar Rapids, which began Monday night against Kane County.

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

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