The news that Joe Mauer and Ricky Nolasco are going on rehab assignments this week in Cedar Rapids prompted a few minutes thought of darting down to take in some games in CR.
That notion didn't take hold, but I did take a peek at how the Kernels have fared since my trip there last month.
The Kernels were, when I arrived, playing poorly; they were near the bottom of the second-half standings, and they lost the first game I saw.
And then they started winning. It's purely coincidence that their hot streak started while I was there, of course. And the Kernels are now in second place in the division (second half standings), just a half game out of first. (Overall, they're still below .500 for the season, but not by much).
A lot of players had something to do with that streak, but as I reviewed some of the stats my eye was caught by Chih-Wei Hu, the 20-year-old Taiwanese pitcher I saw in the second game of my visit. That game was his first start in the Midwest League, and he got a no-decision. He's had four starts since then, gone six innings in each (as he did in that debut), and gotten the win in each.
He's 4-0, 1.50, with just 18 hits allowed in 30 innings and a very nice 29 strikeouts to just six walks. He has yet to allow a home run. I may be overly impatient, but it doesn't look from those numbers as if Midwest League hitters are presenting much of a challenge for Hu.
Hu has yet to take a loss in pro ball. He was 2-0 last year with the Gulf Coast Twins in the lowest level of U.S. minor leagues, 1-0 with Elizabethton this year before being promoted to Cedar Rapids, and now 4-0 with the Kernels.
Hu doesn't have great velocity, but I heard Brad Steil, the Twins director of minor league operations, on the radio cite his movement and his curve ball and note that he has two changeups. This intrigues me; a lot of pitchers struggle to master one change of pace, and Hu has two different ones.
This, for me, is one of the fun aspects of parachuting into a minor league city and taking in a few games. Hu is not a hyped prospect; as I noted last month, at least seven pitchers on the Cedar Rapids roster got bigger bonuses than he did. But he caught my attention, and if he keeps getting the outs, he'll start getting some attention.