CEDAR RAPIDS — There’s not much more that Josh Winder can do to earn a promotion.
The Cedar Rapids Kernels starting pitcher has been Winder-ful. He pitches deep into games, helps his team win them and does it every six days.
The Kernels have a six-man rotation instead of five, in order to conserve innings and pitches for their starters at the low-Class A minor-league level.
“He has been consistent for us almost every outing for us,” Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman said Friday night, after his team’s 3-2 win over Burlington at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Winder threw seven innings against the Bees, giving up just three hits, including an Alvaro Rubalcaba solo home run. He retired the final 15 hitters he faced, finishing with a flourish by striking out the side in the seventh.
That included whiffing Francisco Del Valle on the 13th and final pitch of a great at-bat that probably prevented Winder from pitching further into the game. Still, this was just another great outing for the 22-year-old right-hander from Virginia.
He’s got a low-90s fastball with some carry, as well as a breaking ball and changeup with which he can throw for strikes.
“He did another good job tonight,” Dinkelman said. “Gave up that solo home run in the third, but that was it. He pounded the zone, kind of had a deep count there that ended his night. But he has done a really good job for us. He goes out for every start, and you pretty much know what you are going to get from him.”
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Winder, a seventh-round draft pick of the parent Minnesota Twins last year out of Virginia Military Institute, has made 14 starts this season for the Kernels and pitched at least five innings in each of them. In each of his last seven starts, he has gone at least six innings.
His six victories are tied for second-most in the 16-team Midwest League, as is his 2.32 earned run average. His 89 1/3 innings lead the MWL, with a 0.92 WHIP ranking second.
That would include just 62 hits allowed in 89 1/3 innings, a .197 opponent batting average. So why in the heck is this kid still here and not in high-A Fort Myers?
“I’m sure he’ll be out of here sooner than later,” Dinkelman said, with a smile.
A lot of that has to do with available spots at the higher levels of the Twins minor-league system. Plus, everyone always has something they can improve upon.
But this kid has done well enough this season to earn himself “prospect” status.
“I would consider him a prospect,” Dinkelman said. “That’s anytime you can get a starting pitcher to go that deep (into games) and strike guys out, who doesn’t walk many, who gives your bullpen a blow and gives you a chance to win every night. That’s what he does.”
Former Kernels in MLB Futures Game
Shortstop Royce Lewis and pitcher Jordan Balazovic are scheduled to play in Sunday’s Major League Baseball All-Star Futures Game at Cleveland’s Progressive Field. First pitch is 6 p.m., with the game televised by MLB Network. Both are former Cedar Rapids Kernels.
Lewis was the first-overall draft pick in 2017 and played 18 games late that season with the Kernels. He is hitting .233 in 78 games this season for high-A Fort Myers.
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Balazovic made 12 appearances, 11 starts, last season for Cedar Rapids and went 2-1 with a 2.18 ERA in four starts here this season before being promoted to the Florida State League. The right-hander has made nine starts at Fort Myers and has a 4-2 record and 3.00 ERA, striking out 91 in 65 2/3 innings.
The format of the Futures Game has changed this year to a team of American League prospects versus a team of National League prospects.
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