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Kernels' Berrios Gives Family Cap-Tipping Start

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa As Jose Berrios left the mound and walked toward the dugout after being removed from the game with two outs in the seventh inning Monday night, you noticed how he snuck a peak at the stands.

Two conspicous gentlemen wearing Puerto Rico national baseball jerseys were standing at their seats along the first-base line, tipping their caps at him. Berrios smiled ever so slightly at them.

"My family and everybody applauded," the Cedar Rapids Kernels pitcher said after a 9-1 win over Lansing at Veterans Memorial Stadium. "Thank you. That was very good."

"That was a sign of letting him know he did his job. We're here with you. Excellent outing. Keep it up," explained Angel Berrios Sr., Jose's father and one of the cap tippers. Jose's older brother, Angel Jr., was the other.

The men made the trip from Puerto Rico to watch Jose pitch very well. Two other family friends and Berrios' agent also were in attendance.

This was another example why the Minnesota Twins are so high on the 18-year-old right-hander. He threw 6 2/3 innings, allowing just three hits and a run and striking out eight.

To think, less than a year ago he was pitching high-school baseball for his father.

"I was his star pitcher last year," Jose Berrios said.

"It's something big," Angel Sr. said, through translator Sammy Zapata. "It's very emotional seeing my son pitch and have an outing like he had today. Applying everything he has learned, and whatever his brother and I have taught him (over the years) just fills me with pride."

Angel Berrios Sr. said this was the fourth time he has seen his younger son pitch on the big stage. That included a game last year in Rookie ball and this past spring at the World Baseball Classic, where Jose threw two innings for Puerto Rico.

He was much sharper Monday than in his somewhat jittery first game for the Kernels last week at Burlington, pouring quality strikes with his slider and changeup and a fastball that sat at 93 miles per hour and topped out at 95. Berrios threw 86 pitches, with newcomer Josh Burris relieving him and finishing up an eighth consecutive win for Cedar Rapids (17-5).

These teams conclude their three-game series Tuesday at noon. Lansing's Kellen Sweeney, the Cedar Rapids Jefferson graduate, went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts.

The Kernels blew open a 2-1 game with five runs in the fifth, including having Jorge Polanco, Dalton Hicks, Adam Brett Walker and Travis Harrison hit for the cycle in order. Polanco remains white-hot at the plate, with three hits and three RBIs to raise hit batting average to .353.

Byron Buxton went 1-for-4 with three runs and an RBI. He has reached base via hit or walk in all 21 games he has appeared this season.

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