GameChat – White Sox @ Twins, 7:10 (Maybe)

The radar in the Twin Cities area reportedly is making some folks doubt whether tonight’s series opener with the White Sox will actually get played, but if it does, it will be Yohan Pino’s MLB debut.

It would be a real shame (for me) if it isn’t played since it’s being televised on CSN (the Sox network), making it one of the rare times I would actually get to see a Twins game on TV. Yes I know it would be a shame for Pino, too, but it’s all about me.

I’ll be heading up toward Target Field about noon tomorrow to catch the Friday and Saturday games and I’m looking forward to that. – JC

Chicago @ Minnesota
Eaton, CF Santana, D, SS
Beckham, G, 2B Dozier, 2B
Gillaspie, 3B Mauer, 1B
Abreu, 1B Willingham, LF
Dunn, A, DH Morales, K, DH
Ramirez, Al, SS Suzuki, K, C
Viciedo, RF Parmelee, RF
De Aza, LF Escobar, E, 3B
Flowers, C Fuld, CF
  Quintana, P   Pino, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Chi White Sox 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 6 0
Minnesota 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 x 4 9 0

Let’s give the rookie and the vet co-BOD awards, shall we? Of course, in this case, the rookie pitcher, Yohan Pino, and the vet, Joe Mauer, aren’t all that far apart age-wise.

Pino started out by striking out the first two batters he faced and other than a couple hiccups in the 3rd inning, he pretty much cruised through his first seven innings of work as a Big Leaguer.

Mauer had a pair of hits and, more importantly, a pair of RBI. Kind of reminded you of a guy who used to catch for the Twins the last few years. – JC

Yohan Pino

Yohan Pino

Joe Mauer

Joe Mauer

Twins Prez Interested in Move from Cedar Rapids to St. Paul?

In September of 2012, the Minnesota Twins announced a four-year affiliation agreement with the Cedar Rapids Kernels, with the Twins’ then-Senior Director of Minor Leagues Jim Rantz telling the media, “We are confident that this relationship will grow into one of the strongest affiliations in minor league baseball.”

Less than two years later, the Twins organization appears to be flirting with another minor league ownership group with an eye toward moving their Class A Midwest League affiliation to nearby St. Paul, Minnesota, and potentially leaving the Kernels to shop for another new Major League affiliate when their current Player Development Contract expires following the 2016 season.

According to a story Tuesday in the Business Journal, Minnesota Twins President Dave St. Peter and Derek Sharrer, the General Manager the St. Paul Saints, an independent minor league team, expressed mutual interest in a future affiliation agreement between the two teams.

Their comments were made at the Business Journal’s Business of Sports Power Breakfast Tuesday morning.

But what about 2017 and beyond? (Image: Kernels.com)

But what about 2017 and beyond? (Image: Kernels.com)

“Long-term, there are aspects that make a lot of sense,” St. Peter is quoted as telling the group. “Short-term, it’s more challenging. We have a tremendous partnership with Cedar Rapids and the Kernels. It’s been a home run for the Twins. It’s been strategic for the Twins relative to marketing in the state of Iowa.

“I think it’s something that will require some additional discussions and I’m guessing that dialogue will take place.”

The Twins President did point out that the potential arrangement comes with challenges.

“It’s a bus league, and when you’re in St. Paul and there are teams east of Cleveland, that’s a tough bus trip for your players,” St. Peter said. “Things like that need to be addressed long-term.”

The Saints are in the process of building a new 7.000 seat stadium in St. Paul that’s being built to meet or exceed standards required by baseball for Class AA and lower affiliated teams. The stadium is scheduled to open in 2015.

The Saints are owned by a group that recently agreed to sell the Twins’ Class high-A affiliate in Fort Myers, Florida.

“Our organization has a tremendous amount of respect for Derek and his team,” St. Peter said of the Twins’ relationship with the Saints organization. “We’ve worked very closely with the Saints’ ownership … for 20 years.”

As the Twins President alluded to, there are a number of obstacles that the Twins and Saints would need to overcome before placing an affiliate in St. Paul.

The most likely arrangement would be for the Twins to place their Class A Midwest League affiliate in St. Paul. There are no high-A or AA leagues located in the Midwest and the new Saints stadium is not being built up to AAA standards.

However, putting a Midwest League team in St. Paul would not be a simple matter, either.

For the Twins and Saints to make the plan work, they would need to either seek to have the Midwest League expand by two teams (to keep the number of league teams at an even number for scheduling purposes) or acquire an existing MWL team and move it to St. Paul.

Every Major League team already has a full season Class A affiliate, which would seem to make expansion unlikely.

Acquiring a team and moving it would only be somewhat easier.

Under the current Professional Baseball Agreement between the Major and Minor League governing bodies, every current affiliated minor league team is guaranteed an affiliation. Baseball can’t just tell an existing affiliated team that they’re being kicked out of affiliated minor league baseball.

The Saints ownership would likely need to acquire an existing Midwest League team and relocate it to St. Paul, rather than looking to acquire a team currently competing in another Class A league.

While it would not be totally unheard of for a team to move from one minor league to another, the same scheduling issues that affect expansion would also require any movement between leagues to result in each affected league retaining an even number of teams.

With the eastward migration of Midwest League teams over the past two decades, virtually every club in the Eastern Division of the league is playing in relatively new ballparks and before generally larger crowds than is the case among their Western Division brethren. This would make it much more likely that a current Western Division club would be targeted.

With relatively new or recently renovated ballparks in Appleton WI, Kane County IL, Peoria IL and Iowa clubs in the Quad Cities and Cedar Rapids, it would be unlikely that the teams in those communities would go on the sale block.

That leaves Beloit WI, Clinton IA and Burlington IA, three teams with, perhaps, the most difficult stadium situations left among potential MWL targets.

However, all three of those teams are, like the Kernels, long-time MWL members. More importantly, also like the Kernels, all three clubs are community owned. Prying ownership away from those communities would likely be no easy task.

Finally, even if an existing ownership group were made an offer they can’t refuse, the team would need approval of the other members of the MWL to relocate. That hurdle might not be so easy to overcome, either.

St. Paul is well outside the current MWL footprint. Cedar Rapids is the closest current league city and it’s a good 250 miles from the Twin Cities. Every other MWL community, except Appleton (270 miles) is at least 300 miles from St. Paul.

South Bend IN, at 495 miles, would be the only MWL Eastern Division location less than 500 miles away.

That’s an important consideration for the league, too, because under the terms of the Professional Baseball Agreement rules, players must be given an off day any time they are bused 500 miles or more. Having a team that far outside the league’s current footprint could present a nightmare for MWL schedule-makers.

It also would increase travel costs, not only for the team that relocates, but for every other team in the league that would have to send teams to St. Paul on road trips. Those travel costs are primarily the responsibility of the local team, not their Big League affiliate.

St. Peter is certainly correct in cautioning Twin Cities fans that putting an affiliate in St. Paul would be difficult to arrange, but if the Twins were to decide to make such a move a priority, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that they could throw enough weight around to get what they want. It remains to be seen whether the Twins and Saints are truly interested enough in a marriage to overcome the obstacles.

The agreement between the Kernels and Twins will have young Twins prospects calling Cedar Rapids their summer home for two more years after the current season.

Nevertheless, it’s no doubt disappointing to Twins fans in Eastern Iowa to learn that at least one Twins executive may no longer be interested in seeing the relationship between the Twins and Kernels, “grow into one of the strongest affiliations in minor league baseball.”

Kernels General Manager Doug Nelson, reached Tuesday afternoon while in Comstock Park MI for the Midwest League All-Star game, was asked for his reaction to St. Peter’s statements to the Business Journal.

“The Kernels view our affiliation with the Twins as a long term partnership,” stated Nelson via email.

It is less clear whether the Twins continue to share that view.

– JC

Kernels’ Jason Kanzler Keeps Proving Himself

Go ahead and underestimate Cedar Rapids Kernels outfielder Jason Kanzler. He’s used to it. Having to show people they’re wrong about him is nothing new.

”I think I’ve done that my whole life, pretty much,” Kanzler said. “I was never really at the top on anyone’s priority list. I wasn’t recruited out of high school. I tried to walk on at Northeastern University and I was cut after two weeks.

Jason Kanzler

Jason Kanzler

“Then I went to Buffalo as kind of a recruited walk-on and I didn’t play. I guess my red-shirt freshman year, I got 10 at-bats.Then I platooned a little in left and right my sophomore year.”

That’s not exactly the kind of start to a college baseball career that you’d expect for a guy with hopes of playing ball professionally.

Things turned around for Kanzler his next two seasons at the University of Buffalo, however.

“I started in center field my junior and senior year and won two gold gloves so I kind of shoved it up in everyone’s faces.”

If you think it sounds like Kanzler has a little chip on his shoulder over people underestimating him, you would be correct.

Kanzler spent spring training with the Class A group, but got the word the last week of camp that he would not be heading north to Cedar Rapids with the others.

Asked how he felt about being one of the final cuts to the Kernels’ roster as spring training drew to a close in March, he quickly corrected the questioner and didn’t hesitate to say exactly how he felt about it.

”I was the last guy,” he said. And he said it without a trace of a smile.

“I was angry, I was really angry,” he admitted. “The coaches down in extended (spring training) told me to cool it and I’ll get my chance eventually.”

You get the sense from Kanzler that “cooling it” isn’t something that comes very natural to him on a baseball field. In fact, in the game the evening after giving the interview, Kanzler was ejected for arguing a called third strike late in the game.

In any event, he didn’t have to cool it for very long this spring before he was given a plane ticket for Cedar Rapids. Four games in to the season, Kernels center fielder Zack Granite was injured and Kanzler got the call.

Jason Kanzler

Jason Kanzler

Granite rejoined the Kernels last week, but it wasn’t Kanzler’s roster spot he took. Instead, Ivory Thomas was given his unconditional release by the Twins to make room for Granite and Kanzler in the same outfield.

At the Midwest League’s All-Star break, the halfway point of the Kernels’ season, Kanzler is hitting .293 with an .813 OPS. He has five doubles, five triples and one night after his ejection he hit his seventh home run of the year. He has also stolen 10 bases.

Kanzler was utilized as a top-of-the order hitter when he first arrived in Cedar Rapids, but the power he’s demonstrated has resulted in a move toward the middle of the lineup.

How could power go unnoticed?

“I’m not a ‘guy’ really. Just an ‘extended guy’,” Kanzler explained. “I was hurt for 14 days during spring training with a hamstring, so I really only got to play like ten spring training games.”

The pop in his bat may have surprised others, but not Kanzler. “I knew I had it. I think it makes me even more mad that no one else really knew,” he said.

Kanzler has let his play convince others he’s more than just a defensive specialist and slap hitter.

“I guess I could show it off in BP a little bit,” he said, “but they kind of figured I was just a speed guy with good defense and once you get pigeon-holed, it’s hard to kind of climb your way out.”

Kernels hitting coach Tommy Watkins knows Kanzler has a bit of a chip on his shoulder and that the player uses it to his advantage.

“I think that’s one thing that motivated him, being the last guy left off the team,” Watkins said. “From talking to him since he’s been here and in spring training, I think he’s been a guy that people have always told him he couldn’t do it, so he set himself out to prove everybody wrong.

“If you tell him he can’t do it, he’s going to work 10 times harder to prove you wrong.”

Asked about his goals for this season before the year started and whether they have changed at all with his performance in Cedar Rapids, Kanzler was thoughtful with his responses.

“I think my goals are just to play my game,” he responded initially. “I think if I play my game, everything will kind of work itself out. I guess my main goal is to play excellent defense and kind of be a spark plug. I kind of like to do a little bit of everything. So whether it’s hit a home run or steal a base or make a diving catch, I just like to play the game hard.”

Watkins thinks Kanzler’s on the right track with that goal.

“I think for him just to work on his overall game,” Watkins said. “He’s a guy that has tremendous tools, all of them. He can hit, hit with power, he can run, he can throw. He’s got all the tools, it’s just fine-tuning all of them and have them show in the game.”

Of course, Kanzler has longer term goals, too. “My goal is to get to the Big Leagues, but that’s more like a dream than a goal right now. Still a few too many steps away to be a goal yet.”

A native of upstate New York, Kanzler added another potential goal before he reaches the Big Leagues, “Fill up the Red Wings’ stadium.”

“Maybe my (short term) goal would be to make a post-season all-star team and help the Kernels win the second half and get in the playoffs and win the playoffs.

“I like that. I like to win.”

Jason Kanzler breaking up a double play

Jason Kanzler goes in hard to break up a double play

Kanzler and his team mates aren’t accustomed to looking at the standings and seeing their team near the bottom. They don’t like it much.

“Yeah, I think especially because we have, I think, a lot more talent than a lot of the teams that are above us. We have so many games where we can’t put everything together. One or two things go right instead of all three.”

As intense as Kanzler can be on the field, he’s capable of relaxing and enjoying his time away from the ballpark.

Recently, that included a trip to a local music store with team mate and Cedar Rapids native Chad Christensen.

“He (Christensen) bought a guitar and I bought a ukulele,” Kanzler related. “So I’ve been practicing my ukulele a little bit. Ryan Walker has a banjo and it’s amazing, It’s an instrument I’d like to learn.”

How’s that ukulele coming and does it sound good with Christensen’s guitar?

“No we haven’t tried that. The guitar is too loud and they don’t collaborate well I don’t think.

“Chad’s been learning mostly country songs and I’ve been learning video game songs, like Mario and Zelda. That’s my kind of thing. Just fun little stuff.”

You get the feeling that all it would take for Kanzler to become the best ukulele player ever would be for someone to tell him he can’t do it.

– JC

GameChat – Twins @ Red Sox, 6:10

Some sad news in the baseball world this afternoon as word came out that Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn has passed away. Gwynn was as pure a hitter of baseballs as you’re likely to ever see. During his career, I always felt he was under-appreciated. Maybe because he played for a lot of bad teams in San Diego and maybe because he wasn’t a noted power hitter. RIP Tony.

Kevin Correia is on the mound for the Twins in Boston tonight.

Minnesota Boston
Santana, D, SS Holt, LF
Dozier, 2B Bogaerts, 3B
Mauer, 1B Pedroia, 2B
Willingham, LF Ortiz, D, DH
Morales, K, DH Napoli, 1B
Arcia, O, RF Nava, RF
Suzuki, K, C Drew, SS
Escobar, E, 3B Pierzynski, C
Fuld, CF Bradley Jr., CF
  Correia, P   De La Rosa, R, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0
Boston 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 x 1 6 0

Kevin Correia had another pretty decent start. That’s the good news.

The Twins got a total of 3 lousy hits. That’s the bad news.

Bad news prevails today.

Thorpe, Romero Make Kernels Debuts

As the Cedar Rapids Kernels wrap up the final stretch of the first half of their 2014 Midwest League season, the parent Minnesota Twins sent them some needed starting pitching help in the form of two teenage pitching prospects.

Australian 18-year old lefty Lewis Thorpe and right-hander Fernando Romero, a 19-year old out of the Dominican Republic joined the Kernels from extended spring training last week and both were immediately inserted in to the starting rotation by manager Jake Mauer and pitching coach Ivan Arteaga.

Lewis Thorpe

Lewis Thorpe

Thorpe was the 6th ranked prospect in the Twins organization by MLB.com during the offseason and #7 on Baseball America’s list of Twins top prospects.

Romero was also among the organization’s top 15 prospects by both organizations coming in to the year.

Romero was the first of the pair to debut, getting a start on Thursday on the road in Appleton WI against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. The righty went five full innings, giving up a pair of earned runs on seven hits and one walk. He struck out six Rattler batters. The Kernels lost the game 7-4 but Romero got a no-decision, leaving the game with the score tied at 2-2.

Thorpe had less luck in his first start with the Kernels, picking up a loss in Kane County on Saturday as the Kernels fell to the Cougars, 5-2. All five runs were charged to Thorpe and all were earned. He gave up six hits, walked three and struck out just one batter in 4.2 innings.

It makes for an ugly stat line for Thorpe, but that’s more than a little misleading.

One very close pitch at the knees being called ball four instead of strike three was the difference between escaping the fifth inning relatively unscathed and getting the hook. He left the game with two runs across and bases loaded in the home half of the fifth inning, but all three baserunners came around to score after he departed.

Afterward, Arteaga agreed that Thorpe looked much better than his stat line would indicate.

“He got through two outs in the fifth inning, but just ran out of gas, unfortunately,” said Arteaga. “I think he deserved better. His line doesn’t say what he actually looked like. One thing is his line, but another thing is what he actually did and how he looked.

“He had poise. Obviously he needs a little work with the breaking ball but his fastball (command) isn’t going to be a problem. He throws the ball well. Being the first time and all, I think that I’m very pleased with what I saw.”

Arteaga was also happy with his first look at Romero since spring training in March.

Fernando Romero

Fernando Romero

“He’s got one of those arms that make you go, ‘wow,’ Arteaga said, adding that Romero throws, “94 to 99 (mph). He was able to throw a hard slider and a couple of them were sharp, especially against right-handed hitters. Coming over for the first time, I thought he looked really good.”

Arteaga, whose rotation has struggled at times through much of the season, was heartened by his first look at the new additions.

“It’s very encouraging, to have those two guys join the rotation – very encouraging for everybody because they showed that they will compete. They will throw it over and they’re going to be just fine, as advertised.

“I saw Romero and Thorpe during spring training. It was just basically a matter of time before they were going to join us and the time has come. They’re here and they’re doing really well.”

Pitching coach Ivan Arteaga and pitcher Ethan Mildren

Pitching coach Ivan Arteaga and pitcher Ethan Mildren

Thorpe and Romero will form one-third of the Kernels’ six-man rotation going forward, joining four pitchers selected by the Twins in the 2013 First Year Player Draft: Kohl Stewart (1st round), Ryan Eades (2nd round), Aaron Slegers (5th round) and Ethan Mildren (12th round).

The Kernels, who sat in seventh place in the eight-team Western Division of the MWL coming out of the weekend, will get a chance to start over with a clean slate as the league divides their season in to two halves with the second half starting on Thursday, June 19, after next week’s MWL All-Star Game. – JC

GameChat – Twins @ Blue Jays, 6:10

So much for the “Morales will need a few days to get in to playing shape” stuff, huh? Kendrys Morales is in the Twins’ lineup tonight as the DH and batting sixth.

Minnesota @ Toronto
Santana, D, CF Reyes, SS
Dozier, 2B Cabrera, Me, LF
Mauer, 1B Bautista, RF
Willingham, LF Lind, DH
Arcia, O, RF Encarnacion, 1B
Morales, K, DH Francisco, J, 3B
Plouffe, 3B Lawrie, 2B
Suzuki, K, C Thole, C
Escobar, E, SS Gose, CF

Looks like I neglected to include the pitching matchup in the lineups. It’s Nolasco, P  for the Twins and former Twin Dickey, P  for the Jays. – JC

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 4 9 0
Toronto 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 5 10 0

Odd game. First two hitters go yard for the Twins and then pretty much nothing until the ninth when they rally to tie the game. Unfortunately, the bullpen coughed one up in the bottom of 9.

GameChat – Astros @ Twins #3, 1:10

I’m still over in Kane County with the Kernels this afternoon but the Twins will be looking to win their series with the Astros today.

The big news, of course, is the signing of Kendrys Morales and the subsequent DFA of Jason Kubel. Certainly an interesting move by a team in last place of their division, though certainly the Twins aren’t so far out of things they should be giving up. It’s just somewhat out of character, I guess. – JC

Here are today’s lineups:

Houston @ Minnesota
Fowler, CF Santana, D, DH
Altuve, 2B Dozier, 2B
Springer, RF Plouffe, 3B
Singleton, 1B Willingham, LF
Dominguez, 3B Arcia, O, DH
Grossman, LF Nunez, RF
Carter, DH Parmelee, 1B
Corporan, C Pinto, C
Villar, J, SS Escobar, E, SS
  McHugh, P   Deduno, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Houston 0 1 1 3 0 0 4 1 4 14 13 0
Minnesota 0 0 0 1 2 0 2 0 0 5 10 2

The Twins haven’t really been blown out of as many games this season as they seemed to last year. Maybe that’s why seeing this kind of score brings back some bitter memories.

But it’s just one game, right? Forget it and move on. – JC

GameChat – Astros @ Twins #2, 1:10

I’m hopping in the car in a few moments to head over in the general direction of Chicago to catch prospect Lewis Thorpe’s first start with the Kernels, but while I’m motoring across northern Illinois, the Twins will be attempting to even their series with the Astros. No Oswaldo Arcia in the line up today after he hurt his ankle last night. Hoping it’s nothing serious. – JC

Houston @ Minnesota
Fowler, CF Santana, D, DH
Altuve, 2B Dozier, 2B
Springer, RF Mauer, 1B
Castro, Ja, C Willingham, LF
Dominguez, 3B Plouffe, 3B
Singleton, 1B Parmelee, RF
Presley, LF Suzuki, K, C
Grossman, DH Escobar, E, SS
Gonzalez, M, SS Hicks, CF
  Feldman, P   Gibson, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Houston 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 2
Minnesota 0 3 0 4 0 0 1 0 x 8 7 0

So, while I wasn’t paying attention, not only did the Twins score a bunch of runs AND shut out the Astros, but they also signed Kendrys Morales! That should make for an interesting roster move or two in the next couple days.

As for the game, I have no idea what happened, but I can tell from the box score that Danny Santana had 4 hits and drove in 5 of the Twins’ runs. So, while the pitching staff certainly earned our respect with the shutout, Santana is getting our BOD.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a current picture of Danny in our Knuckleballs library, so the best I can do is go back in time and give you a look at Santana as a member of the Beloit Snappers a few years back. – JC

Daniel Santana

Daniel Santana

fsh

GameChat – Brewers @ Twins #2, 7:10

It’s turn back the clock night in Target Field with fans encouraged to wear their best 1980s garb to the game. Honestly, I can’t remember what kind of stuff I wore in the 80s. I was still trying to get over the 70s.

I’m going to imbed this just for your viewing pleasure: Last night, the Kernels and Timber Rattlers had a little bench clearing dust up in Wisconsin. 3 people on each team were ejected. Two players and a coach from Wisconsin along with two Kernels players and the Twins’ minor league hitting coordinator Bill Springman. Mostly a lot of jawing. Doesn’t appear to me like anyone got their fine money’s worth out of this deal. The two teams play again tonight and Friday, though, and these two teams have been knocking down hitters since last week’s series in CR, so things may not yet be settled.

Now here’s tonight Brewers/Twins lineup

Milwaukee @ Minnesota
Segura, SS Santana, D, CF
Braun, RF Dozier, 2B
Lucroy, C Mauer, 1B
Gomez, C, CF Willingham, LF
Ramirez, Ar, DH Arcia, O, RF
Davis, Kh, LF Plouffe, DH
Gennett, 2B Nunez, 3B
Reynolds, Ma, 3B Pinto, C
Overbay, 1B Escobar, E, SS
  Peralta, W, P   Correia, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Milwaukee 0 0 0 3 0 3 0 0 2 8 13 0
Minnesota 0 0 4 0 0 0 0 1 0 5 9 1

Not only a loss, but a potentially bigger loss as Oswaldo Arcia sprained an ankle and is “day to day”. Ugh.

Interview with Twins GM Terry Ryan – Part 2

Minnesota Twins General Manager Terry Ryan had surgery for squamous cell carcinoma in February and has undergone radiation treatment as well. In the meantime, Assistant General Manager Rob Antony has filled in as the interim GM for the Twins, though Ryan has been in regular contact with Antony and others in the Twins front office.

During the past Cedar Rapids Kernels homestand, Ryan was in town observing the Twins’ young Class A prospects and sat down Sunday for an interview that covered a range of topics.

In Part 1, we covered his return to work, his view of the current state of the Twins at the big league level and his thoughts concerning the upcoming MLB First Year Player Draft.

Today, Ryan shares some thoughts and observations concerning the Cedar Rapids Kernels, the Twins’ Class A affiliate in the Midwest League.

Like their parent club, the Kernels have hovered near the .500 mark most of the season. That’s been no small achievement given the number of injuries that manager Jake Mauer’s club has sustained. They currently have seven players on the Disabled List and have others who have been on the DL and come back already.

Terry Ryan

Terry Ryan

Ryan acknowledged that it’s a very different club than local fans saw a year ago when top prospects like Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco, Adam Brett Walker and Travis Harrison were wearing Kernels colors.

“We had a very talented club here last year, you’d like to think we could supply this affiliate with that kind of talent every year, but it’s not going to happen. We’ve got a different looking club this year.

“We’ve got some pitching here. Don’t have the thump. Don’t have the type of line up we had last year, which was a very dangerous line up. We don’t have that type of size. We had monstrous guys here so yeah it’s different.

“But every year is going to be different no matter what you try to do or accomplish at a minor league affiliate. You’re looking for players, you’re trying to develop players. This is a little different lot.

“So you adjust. Jake and Tommy (Watkins, the hitting coach) and Ivan (Arteaga, the pitching coach) are going about their business. It’s a little bigger challenge this year because you don’t have a Buxton here, you don’t have a Walker. You don’t have a Polanco.

“But that comes with the territory. When you’re running a Class A club, you’re going to have different personnel every year. You’ll have a few repeats, but for the most part it’s a different club and a different atmosphere and different results.”

Asked for his observations on specific players, Ryan was reluctant to go in to much detail, given that he had seen just four Kernels games at the time of the interview.

“It’s a little dangerous when you start naming names.

“I haven’t seen Stewart (Kohl Stewart, the Twins first round draft pick a year ago), of course. He’s pitching today. But he’s the most recognizable name on this roster for a lot of reasons. He’s talented and he’s a big draft. I’ll be interested to see how he does today.

“He had a tough outing his last go, I understand, I didn’t see it. He went two or three innings and they had to go get him. I doubt very much that he’s experienced that in his life but this is the ideal spot (to experience that). Alright, let’s see how he handles this. We’ll see if he bounces back today and gets back to his normal self. If he doesn’t then I would be a little concerned. But if he does, which I would expect, it’s just a matter of growth.

For the record, Stewart did indeed bounce back under the watchful eyes of the GM. Stewart threw six innings Sunday, giving up just one earned run, in the Kernels’ win over Burlington.

“He’s an athlete, he’s confident,” continued Ryan. “He’s got the skills that you’re looking for. There’s a reason the guy was picked fourth in the (draft). He was picked up there because he’s got strength, he’s got a body, he’s got mechanics, he’s got stuff, he’s got competitiveness.

“He’s got the kind of mechanics and arm action that would be conducive to pounding strikes, which is good.”

Kernels fans are getting the opportunity to see a native Cedar Rapidian in action with the Kernels this season.

Chad Christensen, the Twins’ 25th round pick a year ago out of the University of Nebraska, played high school ball at Cedar Rapids Washington. He came north with the club out of spring training and is hitting .290 while playing all over the field for the injury-plagued Kernels.

“One of the things that I think we were impressed with when he came out of Nebraska was his ability to have some versatility for a club,” Ryan said of Christensen. “He’s got strength and he’s got speed. He’s got strength in his bat. He can play a number of spots, including centerfield, which is pretty good.

Twins GM Terry Ryan chats with members of the Cedar Rapids grounds crew

Twins GM Terry Ryan chats with members of the Cedar Rapids grounds crew

“When he showed up last year after signing, he made a good impression and then in spring training. He’s got the type of make-up that you want to have him on your club. I’m sure Jake was pleased when he did come here and I think he’s even more pleased with what he sees in the results.

“He’s just been a good player on this team, home town or not. That’s a little bit more pressure for a kid to come in here and play in front of your home town. He’s handled it quite well. In fact, he might be the most consistent guy we’ve had on this club. Not that I’ve been around much, but I read those things, the reports and that stuff.”

Ryan is aware that the Kernels have had more than their fair share of injuries, but doesn’t feel they should be keeping the team from performing well on the field.

“It’s no excuse. We’ve got other players.

“(Jason) Kanzler came in because of an injury to Zack Granite. So here comes Kanzler and he’s been quite good here. There are other people that we can go get and hopefully fill in for an injury.

“Now, we’re starting to get healthy. A bunch of these guys are going to get healthy here soon.

“Getting back on the diamond is important for a 21 year old, because they can’t afford to spend a lot of time on the Disabled List. You just can’t do anything with them. There’s no development time, they’re getting bypassed, stuff like that. They’ll get healthy and we’ll get them back here.

“We’ve got some kids with ability but so far it’s been a slow go for them. I’m not so sure the weather was too conducive to what they were trying to do. The thing is, you’re going to have to learn to do that. We play in Cedar Rapids, we play in New Britain (CT), we play in Rochester (NY) and we play in Minnesota. Minnesota is not too much different than Cedar Rapids.”

About a year ago, Twins top prospect Byron Buxton and others were promoted from the Kernels up to Class high-A Fort Myers shortly after the mid-June Midwest League All-Star break. Ryan’s visit shouldn’t be interpreted as a precursor to similar promotions, however.

“When I come in here, I don’t worry about that stuff. That’s Brad Steil (Twins minor league director) and that would be Jake and the minor league coordinators.

“If someone is dominating, as you know, we’ll move them. I don’t know if we’ve got any of that going on here. I don’t think we’re in that position quite yet.

“Although if somebody starts dominating this league in the next month or so and they put up numbers and you say, ‘what more do they have to do?’ That’s about the time you start saying ‘let’s move him up.’”

Ryan was asked for an update on the condition Buxton, who has missed almost the whole season so far with a wrist injury.

“We had him see a specialist with that wrist about two weeks ago and there was no alarm. He re-aggravated that thing and we’re taking our time. It’s getting better. I read that yesterday in a medical report. He’s still not ready to take the field.

“He’s not going to lose a whole year. Unfortunately, April and May are shot, but he certainly played pretty good in March (during spring training). With him going through Major League camp, it was a good experience. He handled himself pretty well. He handled himself with some class. He understood, he listened, was very coachable.

“We’ll get him back up there. We’ll salvage the year, I don’t think there’s any question that we’ll be able to do some things to get him at-bats.”