Hu’s on the mound

Kernels pitcher from Taiwan looks like keeper

Baseball, Diamonds and Ice by Jeff Johnson, Kernels Top Story,
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July 12, 2014 | 3:12 pm

CEDAR RAPIDS – Hu’s on first? No, he’s actually on the mound

The Cedar Rapids Kernels have struggled to find consistent starting pitching this Midwest League season but appear to have something in Chih-Wei Hu.

The 20-year-old right-hander from Taichung, Taiwan, impressed in his first Kernels start last week. He allowed four unearned runs in the first inning but settled down and settled in to give up just one hit the next five.

“The first inning, the errors, that just happens every game,” Hu said through translator Dean Lin. “I didn’t think too much about it. It didn’t affect me too much. It was a rocky inning, but I just tried to keep my concentration. Sometimes it went away, but I tried to get it back. I just tried to keep the ball down, tried to get groundballs.”

Hu had three good starts for Rookie-level Elizabethton (seven hits, three runs allowed, with 16 strikeouts in 16 innings) before getting the promotion to Cedar Rapids. He was good last season for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Twins (2-0, 2.45 ERA in 12 games) but suffered an elbow injury that set him back some this spring training.

Surgery was not needed. He came over to the United States in January to do some rehabilitation and workouts.

“He pitched very well, overcame a lot of adversity,” Kernels Manager Jake Mauer said. “We didn’t catch the ball behind him too much. Didn’t do too much to help him, but he didn’t panic. Throwing six innings, he got some quick outs, got some double-play balls. He kept attacking, and that’s what you want to see.”

Hu signed with the Twins for $220,000 in 2012. You are seeing an increasing number of players from Taiwan in professional baseball, with 11 making it to the majors and 22 in affiliated pro ball this season.

Communication obviously is an issue, though not a barrier with Hu.

“He understands,” Kernels catcher Michael Quesada said.

“You use a lot of sign language and stuff,” said Mauer, who did a youth clinic in Taiwan four years ago as a favor to a friend. “He has been around baseball awhile. You can tell the way he goes about his business.”

AROUND THE LOCAL HORN

- Chad Christensen (C.R. Washington): Outfielder hitting .287 in 81 games for low-A Cedar Rapids (Twins). 13 doubles, 5 triples, 7 home runs, 50 RBIs and 20 stolen bases

- B.J. Hermsen (Masonville): Pitcher is combined 0-2 with 11.66 ERA in nine games between high-A Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain (Twins).

- Jon Keller (C.R. Xavier): Pitcher has 3-0 record, four saves and 1.76 earned run average in 22 appearances. 33 hits, 59 strikeouts in 51 innings.

- Mitch Keller (C.R. Xavier): No record and 0.00 earned run average in two games for Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Pirates. 4 hits, 2 strikeouts in 5 innings.

- Sasha Kuebel (Iowa): Pitcher is 1-0 with 1.00 ERA in six relief appearances for Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Cardinals. 9 hits and a run in 9 innings

- Andrew Hanse (Linn-Mar/Iowa): Reliever is 0-3 with 6.94 ERA in 20 games for low-A Bowling Green (Rays).

- Derrick Loveless (Solon): .Outfielder hitting 267 in 75 games for low-A Lansing (Blue Jays). 12 doubles, 5 triples, 4 home runs and 33 RBIs.

- Colin Rea (Cascade): Pitcher has 7-5 record and 3.17 ERA in 18 starts for high-A Lake Elsinore (Padres). 74 strikeouts in 88 innings.

- Scott Schebler (C.R. Prairie): Outfielder hitting 270 in 89 games for Double-A Chattanooga (Dodgers). 18 doubles, 12 triples, 17 home runs and 48 RBIs.

- Justin Toole (Iowa): Infielder hitting .306 in 38 games for Double-A Akron (Indians). 4 doubles, 10 RBIs.

- Jake Yacinich (Iowa): Recently sent to Rookie-level Arizona League Angels. Hit .176 with two RBIs in six games for Rookie-level Orem (Angels).

- Taylor Zeutenhorst (Iowa): Outfielder is hitting .118 in 16 games for Rookie-level Pulaski (Mariners). 3 doubles and 4 RBIs.

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@sourcemedia.net

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