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Stewart Survives Line Drive To The Leg, Wins Kernels Debut

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CEDAR RAPIDS - Seeing his organization's $4.5-million pitching prospect was going to survive a wicked comebacker and stay on the mound, Cedar Rapids Kernels Manager Jake Mauer shoved his heart from his throat back to his chest and delivered a one-liner to Kohl Stewart.

"I just asked him 'You've been hit harder than that by linebackers, haven't you?' Mauer said. "He kind of smiled at me. I don't think he knew what to think."

Stewart's anticipated Kernels' debut was quite fine Sunday afternoon at Veterans Memorial Stadium. He threw five good innings and his team beat Clinton, 4-2.

And, most importantly, he shook off a bullet off of Aaron Barbosa's bat in the third that struck him square in the back of the calf and knocked him to the ground. No doubt it hurt like Hades, but Stewart who spurned an offer to play quarterback at Texas A&M after the Minnesota Twins selected him as the fourth-overall draft pick last year had the awareness and toughness to scramble to his feet, find and pick up the baseball and throw Barbosa out at first base.

"(Mauer) asked me if I'd been hit harder than that, and I was like 'Oh, yeah, I've been hit harder,'" Stewart said. "I felt it, but I was all right."

The 19-year-old right-hander from Houston allowed a pair of first-inning runs but retired 13 of the final 15 batters he faced. He gave up two hits, none after Jack Reinheimer's one-out RBI triple, hitting one, walking one and striking out two.

Pitching in front of his mother and father, he showed a smooth, repeatable delivery, a fastball that topped out at 94 miles per hour and a solid changeup. His breaking ball was inconsistent.

"Exactly," he said, when offered the theory his outing was a solid foundation from which to build this season. "I just want to keep pounding the zone. Hopefully I can get better and better."

"For a young kid like that, he's got pretty good command," Mauer said. "He's got a big arm. We've got to clean up some of the other things, some of the small things around it, but he was very impressive. His first start here was a good one, no doubt about it."

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