CEDAR RAPIDS — No matter what the last two years have been like, Alex Schick still has a professional baseball uniform to wear. Through all of his travails, that is the important thing.
“I love to pitch, and I’m happy to be out there,” the Cedar Rapids Kernels reliever said Tuesday night, after his team’s 4-3 win over Wisconsin at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
It has not been fun for a while for the 24-year-old right-hander. A sixth-round draft pick of the parent Minnesota Twins in 2016 out of the University of California, Schick started two games for the Kernels in April 2017 before being shelved with a bad elbow.
He tried to rehab the injury but eventually had to get Tommy John surgery late that year. He missed all of last season as a result.
Then in late January of this year, Major League Baseball announced he had tested positive for a banned amphetamine and was suspended for the first 50 games of the 2019 season.
“Just a stupid decision on my part,” Schick said. “I wasn’t doing anything to try and improve my baseball performance. It was finals week at school, and I made a bad choice. But I’ve learned a lot. I thank the Twins for sticking with me. I really appreciate them. I made the best of a bad situation when I was down there (in extended spring training) with my workouts and stuff. Honestly, I got to become 100-percent fully healthy. I’m just happy to be back.”
Schick (3-1) has pitched out the bullpen seven times since coming off his suspension and being sent back to the Midwest League, and Tuesday night was his fourth decision. He was the winner as the Kernels (42-33 overall, 3-2 second half) rallied from a 2-0 hole with a run in the seventh and three in the eighth.
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Cedar Rapids didn’t even have a hit against Wisconsin starter Logan Gillaspie (1-4) until Chris Williams’ 416-foot bomb of a home run over the porch in left field with one out in the seventh. Estamy Urena’s two-run double an inning later provided what turned out to be the winning runs.
Schick threw two innings and struck out four, allowing a solo home run to former Kirkwood Community College player Korry Howell with two outs in the ninth. It was Howell’s first pro long ball.
Though he has struggled to the tune of a 6.55 earned run average, command being a particular issue, Schick hit 95 miles per hour with a ninth-inning fastball, which was particularly encouraging.
“I think getting back and competing has been the biggest thing for me,” Schick said. “Facing real hitters, throwing real innings. Trying to manage the adrenaline of pitching in real games has been the biggest adjustment. But I feel like I’m finally starting to settle back in and be myself.”
The teams play again Wednesday night at 6:35.
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