Minor League Sports

Gilberto Celestino shows off skills that make him a Minnesota Twins prospect

Outfielder acquired by Twins last year from Astros

Gilberto Celestino (8) of the Kernels heads to home plate to score a run during a Midwest League baseball game at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, May 26, 2019. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Gilberto Celestino (8) of the Kernels heads to home plate to score a run during a Midwest League baseball game at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, May 26, 2019. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS – It was the Gilberto Celestino Special Minute.

That was about the time it took for the Cedar Rapids Kernels outfielder to make a grand impression on Monday afternoon’s game against Kane County at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Celestino caught a fly ball in medium-deep center and set himself up just right for a strong one-hop throw to nail K.C.’s Alek Thomas trying to tag up and go from second base to third. That ended the top of the eighth inning.

Leading off the bottom of the eighth, Celestino sent a hard grounder down the third-base line for a leadoff double, eventually scoring the go-ahead run in the Kernels’ 4-1 victory.

“I liked the double better,” Celestino said, with a smile. “Though the throw was pretty good, too. I just like doubles.”

That moment of the game showed the tools this 20-year-old from the Dominican Republic possesses. No, he hasn’t had the season thus far that was expected.

He signed with the Houston Astros as a 16-year-old for $2.25 million and was acquired by the Minnesota Twins in a trade last season that shipped major league all-star reliever Ryan Pressly to Houston. Celestino has been on the proverbial prospect radar for quite awhile.

Yet he came into Monday’s game hitting just .221.

“He does have tools, for sure,” said Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman. “He runs balls down in the outfield, made that play today to throw a guy out at third base from pretty deep center field. Then he gets that double down the line. There are tools in there. He’s still young. I know he got off to a slow start, but he’s been making some adjustments here recently, so, hopefully, that kind of carries over. Hopefully the second half here will be good for him.”

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Celestino used the word “shocked” when asked what went through his mind when he had been traded last July.

“I was confused,” he said. “But I play hard every time. Give everything I have.”

As you saw Monday and as you have seen in glimpses during the Midwest League season, the pure talent certainly is there. Now it’s about continuing to get game reps and developing.

“I’m working with my swing, my mechanics,” Celestino said. “I’m working hard at that. Working on my balance and my leg kick. Trying to swing at good pitches. Finish strong with my season.”

“He is a line-drive hitter, and if he tries to do more than that, he gets out of his swing a little bit,” Dinkelman said. “If he sticks with his game, uses the whole field, aims for the gaps … I think he’ll be OK.”

A Chris Williams double scored Celestino in the eighth for a 2-1 Kernels lead, then Gabe Snyder followed with a two-run home run down the right-field line as the Kernels (44-38, 3-4 second half) won the rubber game of this three-game series. Kane County Manager Vince Harrison felt Snyder’s homer hooked outside the foul pole, argued for awhile and eventually was ejected by the home-plate umpire.

Carlos Suniaga got the pitching win for Cedar Rapids with two innings of shutout relief. Moises Gomez pitched a scoreless ninth for the save.

Kai-Wei Teng threw a very good six innings as starter, allowing just four hits and a run, striking out seven. Cedar Rapids plays Tuesday and Wednesday nights against Burlington, returning home for a Fourth of July game against the Bees.

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

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