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Cougars notebook: Struggling, waiting for delayed games tiresome

Published: Saturday, April 20, 2013 5:35 a.m. CDT
(Sandy Bressner -
Cougars outfielder Trey Martin batted .270 with Short-A Boise last season, but is off to a .148 start in 27 at-bats with the Cougars.

GENEVA – Scuffling teams still can claim signature wins. Right?

The Cougars enter today’s home doubleheader against Quad Cities with just four victories to choose from, and it’s easy for players to pinpoint which “W” they think can propel them to more.

After squandering a 4-0, third-inning lead to lose the opener of an April 13 doubleheader in Wisconsin, 7-6, Kane County rallied for a 3-1, 11-inning win in the nightcap.

“We played a terrible first inning, and as the game went on, we got better and better,” Cougars first baseman Dan Vogelbach said. “So I think it’s coming together. I think we’re going to click here pretty soon and start winning a lot of ballgames.”

Simply playing a lot of ballgames increases the club’s chances at success. Finding a rhythm has been a challenge in the first two-plus weeks of the season after a flurry of weather-related cancellations on a recent road trip to Wisconsin and Beloit.

Friday marked the first postponement at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark since Aug. 8, 2011, a streak of 92 consecutive openings. Per Baseball America, there already were more 2013 Midwest League rainouts through Wednesday than during all of last season.

“If you’re not an everyday guy and you’re sitting, you may sit five or six days instead of sitting two or three,” Cougars manager Mark Johnson said. “It’s kind of frustrating not getting those guys in there and almost getting too much rest and time on the bench. Regulating that is kind of difficult.”

Before Friday, the Cougars boasted the top team batting average in the 16-team MWL, hitting .276 in 12 games. Their 4.75 ERA ranked 16th.

Weather aside – “Nothing you can’t handle,” grinned left-handed reliever Nathan Dorris, a native of downstate Carbondale – players just want a chance to maintain or improve those figures.

Piggyback ride: Quad Cities has defeated the Cougars in all five meetings this season, with no River Bandits pitcher working more than five innings.

In a bid to develop more arms throughout the farm, the parent Houston Astros commissioned each of the organization’s full-season affiliates to adopt a piggyback system. From Class-A Quad Cities to Triple-A Oklahoma City, four tandems of pitchers get the ball every fourth day.

“I’ve seen it before,” Johnson said. “Usually two or three starters at lower levels, but not the whole staff and not from top to bottom, from [Class-A] to Triple-A. So it’s interesting.”

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow pushed the switch after seeing it succeed while working as the St. Louis Cardinals’ director of minor-league development.

Et cetera: Tickets to Friday’s game can be redeemed for any regular season game in 2013, pending availability. ... The Cougars have not played on consecutive days since April 9-10.

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