GENEVA – Cougars clubhouse employees keep perfecting the nameplate game as transactions transform a roster in its biggest state of flux to date.
This week, the parent Cubs promoted outfielder Pin-Chieh Chen (Double-A Tennessee) and left-handed reliever Jeffry Antigua (Triple-A Iowa) in the latest series of moves.
“You know, we lost a couple guys we liked, but that’s part of the game. You just roll with it,” reliever Justin Amlung said.
“You never know. With the draft coming up, you could have a lot of roster moves coming up soon.”
The Cubs make the second selection when Major League Baseball’s annual First-Year Player Draft opens with its first two rounds beginning at 6 p.m. today. Rounds three through 10 are set for Friday, with Rounds 11 through 40 to be held Saturday.
In a clubhouse environment where the TV is almost exclusively set to the MLB Network, players will be hard-pressed not to see some coverage of the event or ponder who a possible teammate in-waiting might be.
They’re doing their best to look past it and make sure they don’t wind up as a draft “miss” on future telecasts.
“During the season, it’s pretty much watch the big league games, learn from what they do, how they play the game,” said right fielder Reggie Golden, a second-round pick in 2010 who missed all but seven games last season with a left knee strain. “It’s just our season now.”
It’s unclear whether the Cubs’ first-round selection would join the Cougars this summer. Center fielder Albert Almora, the sixth overall pick in 2012, only debuted with the club late last month. He was targeted to begin the season in Kane County before suffering a broken hand bone during spring training.
Almora, 19, played with Rookie League Arizona and Short-A Boise in 2012 after signing with the Cubs, and overcame minor left hamstring tightness this week.
“A little cramping. Nothing bad,” he said. “I’m fine – 100 percent and ready to go.”
Naturally, it’s each player’s goal to say the same from the Wrigley Field clubhouse one day.
Early June usually lends itself to thoughts of advancement, as it often brings the first big wave of roster moves as veterans struggle or there are injuries at other levels.
On Monday, Chen’s nameplate still hung above his old locker, but that was soon to change. Manager Mark Johnson wondered if he might not be back later this season, depending on the organization’s needs.
“You’re always anticipating something,” Johnson said.
• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
IN THE COUGARS DEN
Second baseman Gioskar Amaya entered Wednesday’s series opener at Burlington batting .300 (9 for 30) in his past 10 games. He clubbed his lone home run this season in that span.
Righty Ian Dickson has not pitched more than five innings since his first two appearances of the season. He yielded five runs and four hits in three innings against Cedar Rapids on Saturday.
The Cougars should see their share of Burlington All-Star starting pitchers Alex Kuedell (righty) and Ryan Crowley (lefty) in the next few days. The teams play three games in Iowa beginning today before opening a three-game series Tuesday in Geneva.
Monday’s no-decision against Cedar Rapids marked the first home start for right-hander Dillon Maples. Each of his previous four starts came on the road. ... The Cougars activated a pair of All-Stars from the disabled list before Wednesday’s series opener at Burlington, as outfielder Bijan Rademacher and right-hander Felix Pena rejoined active duty. ... Wednesday’s 6:30 p.m. home game against Burlington marks the first of three “Bark in the Park” events in which fans’ dogs receive free admission to the lawn area. Other Bark dates are July 17 and Aug. 21.
– Kevin Druley, email@example.com