The Midwest League’s Eastern Division All-Stars took two hours and forty-four minutes to top their Western Division counterparts 5-0 in Peoria Tuesday night, but any Cedar Rapids fans who made the trip hoping to watch the Kernels’ representatives had to be careful with the timing of any trips to the concession stand.
Pitchers Felix Jorge, Jared Wilson, Trevor Hildenberg and Cam Booser spent less than a combined 15 minutes on the mound while throwing a total of two and one-third innings for the West.
Jorge needed just ten pitches to retire all three hitters he faced in a perfect 3rd inning, striking out one.
Wilson started the 8th inning and was just as efficient, using just seven pitches to get through his assigned two outs, including a strikeout.
Hildenberger relieved Wilson and used just four pitches to finish the inning with a strikeout of his own.
Booser was assigned the first out of the 9th inning, entering with the West trailing 2-0. He walked one and gave up a pair of hits before getting an out on a bouncer back to him on the mound.
The four Kernels pitchers threw just 34 pitches between them, but All-Star games aren’t all about playing time.
Hildenberg and Jorge agreed afterward that the experience was well worth the trip.
“It was fun,” Hildenberger said, between bites of his postgame meal. “Getting to meet players you play against, talking to them about how their seasons are going. And to pitch in an All-Star game is an honor.”
Jorge, who’s role as a starting pitcher with the Kernels, calls for him to prepare to throw six or seven innings at a time, said he didn’t change his approach for the rare one-inning relief appearance.
“I was just trying to do the same,” he said.
West hitters managed just three hits off Eastern Division pitching on the night and perhaps could have used the bat of injured Kernels first baseman Trey Vavra, who made the trip to Peoria after being elected to start the game before going on the Kernels’ Disabled List with an ankle injury.
Vavra was happy to get the opportunity to participate in the All-Star festivities, but there was no chance he’d be able to play in the game.
“I’m glad that the Twins gave me the opportunity to come here and hang out with everybody,” Vavra said before the game. “It’s great that they allowed me to do that.
“My rehab’s come a long ways. I’m not going to be able to play in the game tonight. It’s unfortunate, but it’s kind of how it worked out.”
Despite the progress with his rehabilitation, Vavra isn’t sure yet when he’ll be back in the Kernels’ lineup. He’s also not certain whether he’ll complete his rehab in Cedar Rapids or whether he’ll make a trip to the Twins’ facility in Fort Myers.
“It’s kind of up to (the Twins) at this point. We’ve been doing some rehab for a long time. I’m progressing. I wouldn’t anticipate anything in the next week, but maybe the week after that.
“I might go down there (to Fort Myers). I’ve heard both. Going down there to get some extended batting practice, but I’ve also heard that I’m staying up here and doing all that stuff up here, so I’ll just keep my head down and keep working.”
With the All-Star break now in the rear-view mirror, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Twins didn’t make some roster adjustments and that could include promoting any of the four pitchers the Kernels sent to Peoria for the All-Star Game.
Vavra, as well, played well enough while he was healthy to warrant consideration for a promotion, but it’s likely the organization would want to see him get more time in with the Kernels when he’s ready to resume his season.
Hildenberger, however, indicated that they haven’t heard anything yet from the Twins about any possible promotions.
On Wednesday, the Twins and Kernels announced that pitcher Brandon Bixler has been activated from the Disabled List and lefty starting pitcher Luke Westphal has joined the Kernels’ active roster from Fort Myers. Bixler made 41 appearances for the Kernels in 2014, notching a 2.68 ERA out of the Cedar Rapids bullpen. Westphal has put up a 3.82 ERA in five starts and 11 relief appearances for the Miracle this season.
The Kernels will begin the second half of the season on Thursday night against Quad Cities. The River Bandits were the champions of the league’s Western Division in the first half of the season.
P.S. This is where you watch the game from when you’re late with your request for media credentials for the MWL All-Star Game. On the other hand, the weather was terrific and I would have missed this ballpark sunset if I’d been in the pressbox!