Twins minor league report: Stewart shows promise in pro debut

  • Article by: LA VELLE E. NEAL III , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 5, 2013 - 11:25 PM

The No. 4 pick in the June draft pitched two innings for the Gulf Coast League Twins.

Righthander Kohl Stewart’s professional career is underway.

Stewart, the fourth overall pick in last month’s draft, made his organizational debut Thursday in a two-inning stint for the Twins’ Gulf Coast League (GCL) team against the Rays.

Stewart gave up one earned run on two hits with no walks and two strikeouts. The Twins lost the game 4-3.

Brad Steil, Twins director of minor leagues, said Stewart’s fastball was clocked at 93-96 miles per hour.

“Spotty command,” Steil said. “I’m guessing he was a little amped up, first pro game and all that. Showed good stuff like we knew he had.’’

Stewart signed with the Twins on June 19 for $4.544 million.

 

Blackburn comeback

Righthander Nick Blackburn on Wednesday made the second start of his comeback from wrist surgery, giving up two runs over four innings for the same GCL Twins. He gave up seven hits but didn’t walk a batter while striking out one.

In two starts, Blackburn is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA.

“Typical Nick Blackburn, throwing that sinker up there,” Steil said. “I think his stuff is getting back pretty close to normal. It might take him some time to really get sharp and be where he wants to be.’’

Blackburn will likely need a couple more starts before the Twins move him up the chain. As long as he stays healthy, Blackburn could emerge as a candidate to join the pitching staff in the majors during the second half of the season.

 

Kepler fits in well

Outfielder Max Kepler’s season has been slowed by elbow problems, but he has made a seamless transition to Class A Cedar Rapids after getting healthy.

In 14 games with the Kernels, Kepler is batting .291 with three homers, 12 RBI and a .381 on-base percentage.

Kepler arrived just before Byron Buxton was promoted to Class A Fort Myers. He has helped make up for some of the offense that Cedar Rapids lost when Buxton moved on after tearing up the league.

Steil was in Cedar Rapids earlier this week and liked what he saw of Kepler.

“He’s taking good at-bats,’’ Steil said, “showing some of his power. He’s been playing center field and first base.’’

The Twins believe that Kepler can be a corner outfielder in the majors, but he’s pretty smooth at first base as well.

 

Colabello crushing ball

Rochester first baseman Chris Colabello continues to crush International League pitching and has to be near the top of the pecking order if the Twins decide they need a righthanded bat in their lineup.

Colabello leads the league with a .359 batting average, .662 slugging percentage and 1.096 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. He’s hit 21 homers and has 67 RBI.

With Josh Willingham out for several weeks following knee surgery on Wednesday, the club could use a righthanded hitter to balance out the lineup.

“Very impressive year,’’ Steil said, referring to Colabello. “If there was an opportunity for playing time in the major leagues, he certainly has positioned himself to be called up.’’

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