Minor League Sports

Lots of Cedar Rapids Kernels doubleheaders, extra-inning games means lot of pitchers

Newbie Jordan Balazovic impresses in 4-3, 10-inning loss to Clinton

Cedar Rapids Kernels manager Toby Gardenhire. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids Kernels manager Toby Gardenhire. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — They keep getting sent pitching help, but a lot of good that does when the Cedar Rapids Kernels keep playing extra-inning games.

It was a third in a row Monday afternoon at steamy Veterans Memorial Stadium. Clinton manufactured a run in the 10th and prevented the Kernels from doing so for a 4-3 win.

With back-to-back doubleheaders over the weekend, the clubs ended up playing 42 innings in roughly 45 hours. That’s a ton of baseball that will tax any pitching staff.

To combat that, the parent Minnesota Twins brought in some guys from extended spring training, at least temporarily.

“The reinforcements, it’s nice to be in an organization where they’re helping us out,” said Kernels Manager Toby Gardenhire. “But, yeah, all these extra-inning games is the reason we’re doing it. What can you do? We just keep grinding away.”

One of those reinforcements was Jordan Balazovic, and he was very impressive Monday. The 19-year-old Canadian relieved starter Tyler Watson in the fifth and went 3 2/3 innings without allowing a hit.

Clinton tied the game, 3-3, on a two-out wild pitch from Carlos Suniaga in the ninth. In the 10th, it brought around Joseph Rosa (who began the inning on second base) with a sacrifice bunt and sacrifice fly.

Armed with a moving mid-90s fastball, Balazovic, a right-hander, was a fifth-round draft pick in 2016 and spent his first two seasons of pro ball in the complexes of the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.

“That was a totally different experience,” said Balazovic, who flew into town late Sunday night. “Actually playing at a stadium, having people come watch you. It was good. The first-inning adrenaline kicked in, and I just had to control it. Offspeed wasn’t really there, but I had the fastball, so I went with the fastball.”

“He was great,” Gardenhire said. “I’ve been with him down in Florida the past couple of years and seen him. He did a very nice job, coming in this spring ready to go, ready to move. Today was nice. He’s got a good fastball, and he’s got a lot of spin on that thing where he misses a lot of bats with it. His breaking ball is starting to come around, too. He’s a good pitcher, a big prospect. He’s got some really good stuff.”

Gardenhire said he didn’t know if the Twins would decide to keep Balazovic around, considering the impression he made. Pitcher Melvi Acosta also joined the club Monday, with pitcher Nick Brown placed on the disabled list.

“It’s huge, yeah,” Balazovic said. “Obviously, you want to come out and pitch well, try go get a spot. Keep playing well, and I guess we’ll see what happens.”

The Kernels also activated outfilder Akil Baddoo from the disabled list Monday, with catcher David Banuelos placed on the seven-day disabled list. After the game, outfielder Shane Carrier was promoted to high-Class A Fort Myers, with no corresponding move immediately announced.

Cedar Rapids (23-25) begins a three-game home series Tuesday against Wisconsin.

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

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