CEDAR RAPIDS — He was the 26th guy. Unfortunately for Christian Powell, they only take 25 players north each April from spring training.
Being the odd man out is never a good feeling.
"Yeah, I was the last guy cut," Powell said, after combining with Tyler Jones on a one-hitter for the Cedar Rapids Kernels in a 9-0 win over Burlington Thursday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium. "Obviously, you don’t want to be in extended, but I kind of felt like I needed it, probably mentally more than anything. I didn’t come into spring training fully ready. I needed to get into better shape and lose some weight. I needed to work on logging some more innings."
An eighth-round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins in 2012, Powell was strictly a reliever last season in Rookie ball because he had logged so many innings in the spring with College of Charleston. The 6-foot-4 right-hander was the Southern Conference pitcher of the year.
A strong candidate to begin this season in the Kernels’ rotation, the Twins ultimately felt it best for Powell to remain in extended spring training in Florida for awhile instead. He lost 15 pounds, built up his arm strength and got his chance when he was promoted here June 5.
He had a rough first start, but has allowed just two runs over three starts and 18 innings since. He didn’t give up a hit until Chevy Clarke’s lined single to right with one out in the sixth.
Control was an issue, as Powell walked five in six innings. The movement on his two-seam fastball (which topped out at 91 miles per hour) seems to be his biggest strength and liability.
"It’s one of those fastballs that he can throw in the middle of the plate and (still) get good results," said Kernels pitching coach Gary Lucas. "It’s got sink at times, some run."
Powell also throws a slurvy breaking ball and has a changeup in the early stages of development. The 21-year-old is out of extended spring training purgatory and looks to have a future.
"I kind of used it as a drive," he said. "You’re in extended for a reason. Bust your butt and get up here."
The Kernels (47-28) improved to 7-0 in the Midwest League’s second half, with Jorge Polanco going 3-for-4 with a three-run home run and four RBIs. D.J. Hicks also drive in two more to extend his MWL-leading RBI total to 74 in 73 games.
The teams play again Friday night at 6:35.
Here is the game boxscore: