Ugly Ninth Inning Costs Kernels The Game

By Jeff Johnson, The Gazette

CEDAR RAPIDS – He entered his first professional baseball game Sunday afternoon to a certain amount of expectations. He left it with an earned run average of infinity.

Nick Burdi won’t forget his debut as a member of the Cedar Rapids Kernels and Minnesota Twins organization. He walked all four guys he faced, part of one very ugly ninth inning that cost the Kernels a 7-4 loss to Clinton at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Clinton scored seven times against Burdi and Jared Wilson, including a go-ahead grand slam from Christian Carmichael. The Twins’ second-round draft pick last month out of the University of Louisville, Burdi threw 20 pitches, five strikes.

It was tough to watch.

“Very frustrating,” said Kernels Manager Jake Mauer. “Not much of a softer spot you could find to put him into. It just looked like he was excited and amped up, as you usually are. You feel bad for the kid, obviously, but the majority of those pitches weren’t very close. (Five) strikes to four hitters, I don’t know. I don’t know what to tell you.”

The odds are Burdi, a 6-foot-5 right-hander, will be just fine. You don’t have the track record he does (18 saves this season) or throw as hard as he does (every fastball Sunday was between 96 and 99 miles per hour) without having a real good chance to succeed.

He only walked 10 guys in 37 innings this season for Louisville, so there is no history of wildness. Perhaps you could chalk it up to the anxiety of his first pro appearance or the rustiness of his first appearance in a game of any kind in two weeks.

Louisville qualified for the College World Series and was eliminated June 16. Burdi signed with the Twins last week, including a bonus of $1.2 million.

“It was a rough day,” he said. “First time pitching in a ballgame since the College World Series, so a little rusty. But, I mean, I still walked four guys, so that’s not an excuse. You’ve got to be able to come back next time and just be sharper.”

Burdi said he was happy to have that first pro outing out of the way. He didn’t feel that he was tight or overly pumped on the mound.

“I’m usually pretty calm out there,” he said. “Just not having my best stuff today. I don’t know if it was taking a little time off. Whatever it was, you come back. There’s always another game.”

The shame was the ninth inning ruined the best pitching performance of the season for Kernels starter Ethan Mildren. He went a season-high seven innings, giving up four hits, a walk and no runs.

The Kernels (34-46 overall, 3-7 second half) scratched across a pair of runs in the first inning, and Bryan Haar hit his third home run in two games in the eighth, a two-run moonshot to left-center that seemed to put it out of reach.

“The boys competed and battled,” Mauer said. “You wanted to give them a chance to win the game. We gave Wilson a shot. It just didn’t work out. Mildren was outstanding. That’s who I feel the worst for. He battled his ass off.”

The teams conclude their four-game series Monday at noon.

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@sourcemedia.net

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