Kernels enjoying playing with Mauer

Fall to Wisconsin, 4-3

By Jeff Johnson, The Gazette

CEDAR RAPIDS – When you’ve got a resource like Joe Mauer near you, you use him.

That’s why Chad Christensen wasn’t afraid to chat up the Minnesota Twins star while they took groundballs at first base during infield practice Monday afternoon at Veterans Memorial Stadium. Christensen asked Mauer about a little bit of this, a little bit of that.

“We were just kind of talking first-base stuff because he just moved there as well (this season),” the former Cedar Rapids Washington standout said, after his Cedar Rapids Kernels lost to Wisconsin, 4-3. “Then I just wanted to ask him a couple things about the big leagues I was kind of curious about. A couple of guys he has faced. He’s faced, obviously, a bunch over the years. It’s great to have him in town for a few days.”

Even if he ends up taking away some of your playing time, right, Chad? Mauer, who is rehabbing from an oblique muscle injury, is expected to be the Kernels’ designated hitter Tuesday night, then their first baseman Wednesday night.

Kernels Manager Jake Mauer said his little brother is scheduled to have Thursday off, then could rejoin the Twins if he feels good physically. He also could spend the rest of the week here.

“It’s not business as usual,” Jake Mauer said. “He’s my brother, and he’s my little brother. It’s fun having him around. These guys, how they kind of look at him, I don’t think a whole lot of them said a whole lot to him today. Joe wants to get to know them a little bit (because) he’s pretty outgoing. Joe loves to play baseball, whether there’s 50,000 or five people in the stands.”

“It’s unbelievable,” Christensen said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun, something you don’t expect to happen in A-ball, to play with someone like Joe Mauer. Being able to watch him swing the bat and work out with us is a lot of fun.”

Christensen was asked his first impressions of Mauer.

“He seems a lot like Jake,” he said. “Looks like Jake, acts like Jake, sounds like Jake. A real good guy to be around.”

The Kernels (56-57, 25-18) lost for the second straight game, dropping out of a first-place tie with Kane County in the Midwest League’s Western Division. Wisconsin (60-51, 24-18) scored the winning run in the ninth on a Michael Ratterree sacrifice fly.

That was the first earned run reliever Dallas Gallant has allowed in 17.2 innings this season. Christensen’s no-doubter home run to left in the sixth had tied things at 3-3.

With about a month to go in the season, these games are getting serious. Jake Mauer had Gallant issue an intentional walk in the top of the ninth and pinch hit Bryan Haar for Engelb Vielma with two outs in the bottom half.

Specific strategy isn’t part of many games at the minor-league level, certainly not as important as individual player experience.

“We owe it to everybody here,” Jake Mauer said. “To the fans, to our guys, who have battled. Guys are still going to get some opportunities, but we’re going to do some things to try and win.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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