Kernels with Pitching Issues? Oddly, yes.
Image courtesy of SD Buhr (photo of Stephen Gonsalves)The Twins have generally been using 6-man rotations at their Class A levels to hold their young starters' innings down, theoretically allowing them to get through entire full-season schedules without having to be shut down early. However, for various reasons, the Kernels have not had the luxury of utilizing a 6-man rotation through most of the second half of their season.
That appears to be catching up to the team and its manager now, as three young rotation lefties are nearing their organizationally determined innings limits for 2014.
Lewis Thorpe, Stephen Gonsalves and Mat Batts have all been major contributors to the Kernels success in the second half of the season. With Kohl Stewart sidelined by two trips to the DL, those three pitchers have been crucial cogs in the machinery that is the Kernels' rotation.
Earlier this week, Chih-Wei Hu was tabbed as the likely starting pitcher for Wedneday's game 1 of the 3-game first round series against Burlington.
"We're still staying with Hu," Mauer said after Thursday's game. "The other guys we don't know yet. We haven't gotten word from on top (from the Twins).
"We're running into some innings issues with the three lefties. We're going to need clearance to figure out who can go and who can't."
Thorpe has thrown 67.2 innings this season, all with the Kernels since joining the team during the first week of June.
Gonsalves has notched 62 innings, split relatively evenly between Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids.
Batts has 58.2 innings under his belt after spending time with the GCL Twins and E'town before joining the Kernels.
Of course, all three pitchers did some pitching in extended spring training before starting their official seasons in June.
Batts is the scheduled starter against Kane County in Friday night's regular season home finale in Cedar Rapids. Gonsalves and Thorpe are scheduled to start games Saturday and Sunday in Clinton.
If the three left-handers are not available to start postseason games, it leaves just Hu and Ryan Eades available among the current rotation members.
Stewart is scheduled to throw a bullpen session today (Friday) and could be reactivated over the weekend if that session goes well.
Beyond that, it's guesswork.
Josue Montanez has filled a swingman role in his career with the Twins organization. Hudson Boyd was stretched out to three innings of work Thursday night.
Obviously, priority 1 for the Twins is making sure this stable of promising young arms remain healthy on what is, at best, a precarious route to Target Field.
The situation in Cedar Rapids, if nothing else, serves as an answer to the questions that come up during the season from fans wondering why some of the lower level minor league teams use 6-man rotations or why certain pitchers are only throwing 4-5 innings per start.
In the meantime, you get the feeling maybe Jake Mauer wouldn't mind seeing Clinton, Iowa, get about three days of torrential rain over the Labor Day weekend.