GENEVA – Reggie Golden is back playing under the lights.
Now the even trickier part comes – re-establishing himself as a hot prospect in the Cubs’ system.
Golden, a 21-year-old right fielder, made his Cougars home debut Friday, smacking a pair of hits in the Cougars’ 5-2 loss to Cedar Rapids at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark.
Golden was called up earlier this week from extended spring training in the aftermath of his LCL tear while playing for Peoria early in the 2012 season.
“It was my second night game in a year and a half,” Golden said of Friday’s game. “I’m trying to get back into it. I took a long time off so I’ve got to make small adjustments.”
Golden was the Cubs’ second round draft selection – 65th overall – in 2010. He missed most of last season with his left knee injury, playing only seven games with Peoria. The Alabama native became the fourth member of this year’s Cougars to have been drafted in the first or second round, joining Albert Almora, Pierce Johnson and Dan Vogelbach.
Despite his solid showing against the Kernels (34-19), Golden expects a challenging summer ahead.
“I lost timing, man,” Golden said. “I’ve been hitting for a long time, and I lost a lot of timing. Obviously the brace, I lost a couple steps while I have the brace. I get that off in October. But other than that, I’ve just got to find it.”
Cougars manager Mark Johnson said he respects the work Golden has put in to earn his way to Kane County. Golden batted eighth in the Cougars’ lineup.
“I think anybody that has a major surgery, especially with a knee or an elbow or something like that, it’s something that you’ve mentally got to get over, and it’s not easy, especially because his legs were one of his assets … for that to be taken away from him and to have to totally rebuild himself, that’s a feat that he’s accomplished,” Johnson said.
Golden’s second hit came in the bottom of the ninth, when the Cougars (24-28) provided a compelling finish.
They scored a run to come within 5-2 and loaded the bases with one out for Almora and Vogelbach. But Kernels relief pitcher David Hurlbut struck out Almora and jammed Vogelbach, inducing a weak groundout to shortstop to end the game.
Almora returned to the lineup after missing a road series at Quad Cities following hamstring cramping Monday that might have been caused by dehydration.
It wasn’t one of his better nights. Almora went 0 for 5, leaving two men on in the bottom of the seventh in addition to his ninth inning strikeout.
Cougars starting pitcher Jose Rosario struggled, allowing 10 hits and five runs – all earned – in five innings before giving way to reliever Eddie Orozco.
Vogelbach had an RBI single for the Cougars.
Golden, whose hits were his first with the Cougars, hoped to have his host family situation solidified as soon as possible.
“I’m ready to settle down,” Golden said. “I hate taking my stuff back and forth every day from the field to the hotel. I’m ready to get somewhere settled down.”