Kernels' Boyd Is Incredible Shrinking Pitcher

By Jeff Johnson, Reporter

Cedar Rapids Kernels pitcher Hudson Boyd winds up to deliver a pitch during the top of the fifth inning of their game against the Burlington Bees at Veterans Memorial Stadium on Wednesday, May 15, 2013, in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette-KCRG)

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By Grant Burkhardt

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — You’ve never met Hudson Boyd, so you look for the real big guy in the Cedar Rapids Kernels clubhouse. You finally find his locker, but the dude sitting in a chair in front of it is this svelte kid nowhere near the 268 pounds the roster lists him.

Hudson Boyd? Yep, Hudson Boyd.

“The only way to get people off your back about it is to change it,” said Boyd, the starting pitcher in the first game of a double-header split Wednesday night with Burlington at Veterans Memorial Stadium. Cedar Rapids won the opener, 6-5, and Burlington the nightcap, 6-4.

“I was tired of being called fat and heavy, so I decided to change it,” Boyd said. “I feel a lot better about it. Hopefully that leads to better things on the field.”

Boyd said he carries about 225 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame, 45 fewer than when he signed for a million dollars with the Minnesota Twins in 2011. He was drafted 55th overall out of Verot High School in Fort Myers, Fla., where the Twins conduct spring training and have their high-Class A minor-league affiliate.

The 20-year-old right-hander didn’t begin his professional career until last season, when he went 2-5 with a 2.95 earned run average in 13 starts for Rookie-level Elizabethton. He has been decent in seven starts for the Kernels, giving up five runs in five innings of a no decision Wednesday.

Credit some of the inconsistency to adjusting to a new level and pitching with an entirely different body.

“He started out being pretty overweight when he first signed,” said Kernels pitching coach Gary Lucas. “I think he’s learning to pitch a little bit with less mass. Maybe that’s an adjustment that’s going to take a little while.”

“I noticed a difference in spring training,” Boyd said. “Maybe not with the pitching, but just getting through an entire day and not getting as tired and stuff. Next day, I wasn’t as sore as the day before. I’m getting over my front side better, which helps me keep the ball down a lot more. It definitely helps a lot.”

There have been some guys over the years who have been successful major-league pitchers despite being plus sized. C.C. Sabathia of the New York Yankees immediately pops to mind.

But Lucas was asked if Boyd had to lose some weight in order to have any sort of professional career.

“The whole beneficial package with him is on the plus side if he does,” Lucas said. “Because he can move around a little bit better, he can pitch deeper into games. If he projects as a starter, he’s going to have to go in all kinds of weather, all kinds of situations. There are all kinds of demands on him … He’s going to have to be in tip-top shape to handle 25 starts a year. Could he have gotten by for awhile? Yes. But there were some adjustments needed in his stature immediately, and he will agree with that.”

“Honestly, I don’t feel like I worked any harder to do it. I just feel like I ate a lot better,” Boyd said. “I changed my diet, made a lot better decisions. Like, I don’t drink soda anymore. Stuff like that. Just portion control, too, I guess. I try to eat as many vegetables now as I can.”

The Kernels (25-12) won the opener with a run in the bottom of the sixth. Michael Quesada reached on a one-out infield hit, pinch runner Jeremias Pineda stole second and scored from third on a two-out wild pitch.

Reliever Josue Montanez threw two shutout relief innings for the win. Quesada, Pineda and Montanez all arrived in town Tuesday from Twins extended spring training.

Burlington (13-21) scored early against Kernels starter Steve Gruver and never trailed in the nightcap. Tyler Grimes had a two-run home run for Cedar Rapids.

The teams play again Thursday night at 6:35.

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