CEDAR RAPIDS – Todd Van Steensel has now experienced the lowest of the lows in professional baseball and the highest of the highs.
OK, technically, the highest of the highs would be a call to the major leagues. Perhaps someday that’ll happen.
But Sunday afternoon wasn’t too bad.
The Cedar Rapids Kernels relief pitcher was informed after a 3-2 loss to Beloit at Veterans Memorial Stadium that he and teammate Ethan Mildren are being promoted to high-Class A Fort Myers. They are just the second and third members of the 2014 Kernels to be moved up, following reliever Brandon Peterson.
The plane out of here leaves at 7:20 a.m. Monday, by the way.
“I guess so,” Van Steensel said, when told he seemed a bit overwhelmed by the news Manager Jake Mauer had just delivered him. “I haven’t had many of these promotions in life. It’s usually been the other way around. Yeah, it feels good.”
Van Steensel, 23, originally was signed out of Australia by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009 but got released. The Minnesota Twins picked him up in 2011, but he was released again.
Minnesota re-signed him this past offseason, and he flourished for the Kernels, the team’s most consistent reliever with eight saves and a 1.30 earned run average in 23 appearances. Unfortunately, he surrendered an RBI double and sacrifice fly in the eighth inning as Beloit rallied to win the rubber game of a three-game series.
That shouldn’t diminish what he did here.
“I was just focused on playing,” said Van Steensel. “If something happened, it did.”
Mildren (3-5, 4.03 ERA in 14 games) is coming off his two best starts of the season, a pair of seven-inning jobs in which he did not give up a run. The movement is actually a chain-effect deal because of injuries at the Triple-A level.
Mauer said he did not know the pitchers joining the Kernels, though word is they are right-handers Chih-Weh Hu and Jake Reed. Hu is 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA in three starts for Rookie-level Elizabethton, while Reed has three saves in four appearances for E-town, allowing one hit and striking out eight in six innings.
Hu is from Taiwan, Reed a fifth-round draft choice of the Twins in June out of the University of Oregon.
That may not be the only movement for Cedar Rapids (36-50, 5-11), as shortstop Engelb Vielma is probably headed to the disabled list, the result of a freak injury that is likely a concussion. Vielma and left fielder J.D. Williams chased a bloop toward the line in the fifth inning that dropped, with Vielma sliding to field it on a hop and quickly throw it back in.
Williams couldn’t stop his forward momentum, though, tried to jump over the shortstop but hit him squarely in the head instead. Vielma’s throw ricocheted off Williams into foul territory for what turned out to be a gift triple and eventually a run.
The Kernels stranded 11 guys on base, going 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position. Starter Aaron Slegers (3-6) was just shy of brilliant but somehow was charged with three runs and the loss.
In short, this team appears to be just good enough to lose right now.
“That’s exactly the way it feels,” Mauer said. “We’re just close enough. We’re in games, but we can’t do things to win games.”
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