Kernels' Melotakis Making Adjustment To Starting

By Jeff Johnson, Reporter

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By Grant Burkhardt

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Players in the Minnesota Twins minor-league system fill out surveys at the end of each season. They talk about their performances, their expectations and the like.

One of the things Mason Melotakis wrote down on his was that he wished he could try starting pitching.

“That’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said, after his Cedar Rapids Kernels lost their first game of the season, 2-1, Saturday afternoon to Beloit before 1,007 fans at Memorial Stadium. “I feel like I have a chance to be successful at it, as well as relieving. You can always go back to relieving, but you can’t always go back to starting. So this is just something that we’re trying to do right now.”

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Mason Melotakis

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The Twins know what Melotakis can do as a reliever. He struck out 34 in 24 innings out of the bullpen last season after signing as a second-round draft pick from Northwestern State in Louisiana, where he was almost exclusively a reliever.

But starters are more valuable. You see his solid 6-foot-2 frame and 90s gas from the left side and become intrigued by the possibilities.

This might not work, but it might. It’s at least worth a try.

“This is a different animal, but I enjoy it,” Melotakis said. “As a reliever, you just go take the ball and throw it as hard as you can. As a starter, you really have to learn how to pitch.”

Melotakis has a short-armed delivery that profiles him by scouts as a reliever. He knows he’s got to improve the consistency of his slider and develop a changeup to make this starting thing work.

He gave up five hits and two runs in 4 1/3 innings Saturday, walking two and striking out two. His average fastball velocity was around 90 to 92, as opposed to mid-90s as a reliever, but that’s to be expected.

“I think he was amped up a little bit and overthrew some fastballs,” said Kernels pitching coach Gary Lucas. “But I liked some of the adjustments that he made, and I thought he competed real well. He used both sides of the plate with his fastball.

“We’re just trying to get through this first round with the starters. We’ve got some things we can build on, good and bad. We’ve got to talk about it and work toward getting better. Melotakis kind of epitomizes that.”

Matt Tomshaw and Manuel Soliman combined for 4 2/3 shutout relief innings, giving the Kernels another shot at a come-from-behind victory. But there was no ninth-inning magic, as there was Friday night, only bad luck.

Travis Harrison lined to third and Niko Goodrum to second to end the game. Cedar Rapids managed just four hits and has 10 in its last two games.

The lone run came with two outs in the eighth when Candido Pimentel singled and scored on a Jorge Polanco double.

The teams complete their four-game series Sunday afternoon at 2:05. Right-hander Tyler Duffey is scheduled to start for Cedar Rapids, opposed by righty Vincent Voiro.

KERNEL KNOWLEDGE

The team made its first roster move of the Midwest League season Saturday, placing outfielder Drew Leachman on the disabled list with a shoulder injury incurred in the season opener Friday night. He is being replaced on the active roster by left-handed pitcher Josue Montanez from Twins extended spring training.

Montanez, 21, was a 15th-round draft pick out of Miami-Dade Junior College in Florida in 2011. He is from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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