CEDAR RAPIDS — He plays a lot, virtually every day. And Gilberto Celestino has played better day by day as this long Midwest League season has continued to progress.
The Cedar Rapids Kernels center fielder went 3-for-4 Sunday afternoon in the Kernels’ 5-0 loss to Clinton at Veterans Memorial Stadium. That moved his batting average to a season-high .255.
That may not sound great, but consider the 20-year-old from the Dominican Republic was under .200 in mid-May. This is a victory for him, the Kernels and parent Minnesota Twins, who acquired him and another minor league pitcher in a trade last season for major league all-star relief pitcher Ryan Pressly.
“I changed my mind a little bit,” said Celestino, who impresses with his ability to speak sound English. “Because I was thinking ‘I want to hit, I want to hit, I want to hit. I want base hits, doubles.’ It didn’t happen, it wasn’t good. Now I’m more comfortable. I’ve worked on my mechanics, my balance. I recognize the pitch better, whether it’s a fastball or curveball. It’s pretty good now.”
Celestino has played in 98 of C.R.’s 104 games, that total ranking third in the Midwest League. His 373 at-bats is second.
He’s first in double plays grounded into (15), a dubious feat, though a lot of that is because he has logged so much playing time and he hits the ball hard. His defense also is stellar.
“I’m trying to finish better,” said Celestino, hitting .340 in July. “Yeah, I’m a little bit tired, but I never think that because if you think that, you will be tired. You play hard every day, you come here, you play.”
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“April is tough for a lot of guys. Tough weather,” said Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman. “He got off to a slow start, but the last month, the last six weeks or so, he is really looking like the player he is supposed to be. Good at-bats, hitting balls hard, playing good defense, all that.”
The Kernels (59-46, 20-15) were shut out for the 11th time this season, as Remey Reed and Elkin Alcala combined on a seven-hitter. The teams conclude their three-game series with a Monday matinee at noon.
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