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From MinnCentric

Kernels with Pitching Issues? Oddly, yes.

Welcome to life as a minor league manager.

The Cedar Rapids Kernels have some of the best pitching in Class A baseball right now. So why isn't Jake Mauer smiling and confident heading in to the MWL playoffs next week?

Jim Ecker's report (click to read) following Thursday night's loss to Kane County reflects one of the challenges Mauer and other minor league managers face at this time of year. One night, your team is popping chamgagne corks (or in this case, sparkling cider), celebrating earning a top playoff seed and the next night you're slapped in the face with the cold reality of organizational innings limits on the young arms on your pitching staff.
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.

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I'm trying to send it your way, JC.


It was torrential here this a.m.


Unfortunately it's more likely to hit Chicago than Clinton.

Ugh, I thought the 'issue' was going to be having too many arms for the short playoff series!

SD Buhr,

If you get the chance to ask Jake or Ivan, can you ask them how many innings Thorpe, Hu and Gonsalves pitched in Extended Spring Training. Do they track innings pitched, or pitch count, or bullpens? That's one piece to the Innings Pitched count that we have no access to.

Aug 29 2014 04:16 PM

SD Buhr,
If you get the chance to ask Jake or Ivan, can you ask them how many innings Thorpe, Hu and Gonsalves pitched in Extended Spring Training. Do they track innings pitched, or pitch count, or bullpens? That's one piece to the Innings Pitched count that we have no access to.

I would think they have to be tracking this someway. 60ish innings isn't that much. These guys have obviously had some sort of workload in EST. I'm guessing it's a non-issue. It isn't like the big league club is going to say 'don't play them'.
Aug 29 2014 05:02 PM

They will say "don't play them" if they hit a pre-determined innings limit. The minor leagues are for player development, not winning at all costs.

Sorry, Seth (et al), but I didn't see the question before I went to the ballpark this afternoon. Fortunately (and perhaps a bit scary), I was thinking along the same lines as Seth and asked Jake pretty much this same question before the Kernels game Friday night.


Mauer wasn't going to say what exactly the innings limit is for his pitchers, but he did confirm that EST innings are factored in to the limits the team places on the young arms once they are assigned to an affiliate.


After the game, Mauer indicated that he's hopeful he'll get the okay from the Twins for Batts to pitch game 2 of the first playoff series on Thursday.


Absolutely, the Twins put a priority on development and protecting the arms of their young assets. But innings pitched are just one factor that go in to measuring how much stress has been placed on a guy's arm. I get the sense that there may be a little bit of wiggle room that may allow some the pitchers to contribute something to the playoff efforts.


The Kernels players have their exit physicals scheduled for 9 am Saturday morning. The results may well influence who is allowed to do what in the playoff run.

I just looked it up. In the college season, Mat Batts threw 103.2 innings. He's now thrown 54 innings in pro ball. That's a lot of innings combined!

Halsey Hall
Aug 30 2014 08:41 AM

I saw Thorpe pitch several times in EST, Stewart also.No idea how many innings, and I think they were on a pitch count then, so that info must be available.

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