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Sioux City Explorers bring back Nate Gercken, sign two more

Sioux City Explorers bring back Nate Gercken, sign two more

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SIOUX CITY -- The Sioux City Explorers announced the signings of right-handed pitchers Nate Gercken, Daniel Hrbek and Max Kuhns.

The 2021 season will be Gercken’s sixth season in professional baseball and second in Sioux City.

Gercken put together an incredible 2019 campaign for the X’s. A season where he was coming off of a Tommy John procedure done the previous September, his 42 appearances were second on the team behind only league-leader Matt Pobereyko. He had a minuscule ERA of 1.91 and a 4-2 record. In 47 innings of work, he struck out 44 batters. He was also named to the mid-season South Division All-Star Team.

The 28-year-old California native was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 17th round of the 2015 MLB Draft following a stellar career at the Academy of Art University (San Francisco, California), where he set single-season records during his senior year for ERA (2.90), strikeouts (79), opponent batting average (.206), shutouts (2) and innings pitched (96 1/3).

Gercken’s first taste of pro ball came for the Twins during the summer of 2015, appearing in 11 games, two starts, for the Elizabethton Twins, their rookie-level affiliate. He put together a 6.69 ERA in 35 innings, striking out 35 batters.

When the Twins released him, he found his way to independent baseball in the Pacific Association. He would put together almost identical numbers between the San Rafael Pacifics and the Pittsburg Diamonds as he did the season prior. He again made 11 appearances, with two of those being starts with a 6.75 ERA.

In 2017, Gercken found success pitching for the New Jersey Jackals of the Can-Am League. Gercken led the team with 43 appearances in 2017. He finished the season with a 2-2 record and a 2.70 ERA striking out 47 batters in 46.2 innings. In 2018, Gercken was just as impressive, posting a 2.08 ERA and a 2-2 record in 30 appearances.

He did not play during 2020.

Hrbek will be entering his fourth season of professional baseball and his first with the X’s.

Hrbek last pitched in 2019 in the Frontier League for the Evansville Otters. There he collected five saves in 15 outings, with a 1.08 ERA. In 16 2/3 innings of work, he showed electric stuff striking out 27 batters while only walking five.

The soon to be 26-year-old, played for both the Mets and Royals organizations. He spent two seasons with Kansas City at their rookie and Class-A levels. In 2018 with Class-A Lexington, Hrbek went 4-2 in 24 trips out of the bullpen, putting together a 4.50 ERA and striking out 35 batters in 36 innings of work.

With the Mets Class-A affiliate, Columbia, Hrbek improved on those numbers. Going 4-0 in 20 appearances and a 3.12 ERA. He collected a had career-high 50 strikeouts over just 40 1/3 innings.

Putting together his 2019 campaign between Class-A Columbia and independent league Evansville, Hrbek went 5-2 in 35 games with a 2.52 ERA. He recorded a 12.2 K/9 by whiffing 77 batters in 57 innings of work. While also showing great control walking just 16 to hit a mark of just 2.5 BB/9.

Hrbek played his college ball at Radford University in Virginia. He also an accomplished position player.

Officially appearing as a pitcher in only his freshman and senior seasons, Hrbek appeared in 22 games, starting 16 of those his senior year. He held a 5-5 record and a 4.89 ERA in those two seasons, striking out 58 and walking 25 over 81 total innings.

When he wasn’t toeing the rubber, Hrbek was found all over the infield for the Highlanders. Playing at least 43 games at every single position on the infield.

He played in 205 games with Radford, hitting a career .286, with 7 home runs, 27 doubles, 14 triples, driving in 97 RBI and scoring 104 runs while swiping 27 bags.

Hrbek’s senior season was one to remember as he was named Big South Conference First Team and Big South All-Tournament Team. He threw the first-ever nine-inning no-hitter in Radford history.

2021 will mark Kuhns’ fifth season of pro ball and first with Sioux City.

Kuhns was drafted by the New York Mets in the 21st round of the 2016 MLB Draft after his junior season at Santa Clara University where he posted a 2.21 ERA and racked up 14 saves in 28 games for the Broncos.

He would spend the next four seasons with the Mets organization bouncing between the rookie-level and different levels of Class-A.

The Colorado native’s best season came in 2017 with Class-A Columbia where in 17 games he collected five saves and 37 strikeouts in 25 2/3 innings of work while posting a 2.10 ERA. Those numbers helped Kuhns be selected to the South Atlantic League All-Star Team.

The 26-year-old got his first taste of independent baseball during the 2019 campaign. After pitching just one game for High-A, St. Lucie he was let go by the New York Metropolitans. Kuhns then found his place with the Quebec Capitales.

In 18 games with Quebec of the Can-Am League, he had a 6.00 ERA in 18 innings with 14 punchouts.


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