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Druley: Rained-out Cougars ready to hit road

GENEVA – Monday afternoon’s rainout between the Cougars and Quad Cities made for a barren Fifth Third Bank Ballpark.

The home clubhouse off the concourse wasn’t exactly bustling, either, as many players dispersed once the Cougars announced the game had been postponed.

Extra idle hours and a 4-13 start to the second half of the season weren’t enough to sway manager Mark Johnson to schedule a workout in place of today’s open date. The next time the club must all be accounted for is 9 a.m. Wednesday, when the bus leaves for a six-game road trip to South Bend and West Michigan.

“Most guys stay away on off days,” Johnson said. “I mean, if they want to come in, they can come in. It’s not like they can come in here and take [batting practice] or anything, but there’s no reason. Usually, guys will just stay away.”

With the Cougars bidding to win their first series since June 5 to 7 at Burlington, the inclement weather offered a roadblock. Kane County won the first two games of the rare five-game series before losing the past two, 5-0 Saturday and 12-5 Sunday.

“We had a great couple games and then you know, that’s baseball,” center fielder Albert Almora said. “You have your good games, you have your bad games. We just have to turn the page and just play the next day like it’s a brand-new season.”

Rainouts, meanwhile, lack much novelty in 2013, one season after the Cougars went a perfect 70 for 70 in accommodating box office openings.

Inclement weather forces ballplayers’ hands, making navigation and time-filling an underrated characteristic.

“That’s the great thing about baseball, being in the game. You see a lot of places, meet a lot of people in a lot of different environments,” said Johnson, a former Major League catcher who began his career with the White Sox. “It’s a pretty good experience.”

AA is OK: Almora, a first-round draftee of the parent Cubs in 2012, went 3 for 4 and scored twice in Sunday’s matinee as designated hitter, a day after leaving Saturday’s game with hemorrhoid aggravation.

Almora was penciled in to start in center field and bat second Monday. He worked out after learning of the postponement and reported no adverse physical effects.

“Everything’s good. Everything’s 100 percent,” Almora said. “I’m good.”

Seeing signs: The Cubs have until Friday to sign University of San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant, the second overall pick in June’s draft.

The Houston Astros signed top pick Mark Appel, a right-hander out of Stanford, last month, and he is expected to land with Class-A Quad Cities soon.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow recently told Houston reporters that Appel’s schedule for advancement will be disclosed “start-by-start.” He made his pro debut for Short-A Tri-City (N.Y.) on Friday, allowing two runs and three hits in two innings, striking out one.

“I’ve heard Mark’s a great guy,” said Quad Cities righty Lance McCullers, a first-round sandwich pick of the Astros last season. “I know he’s a great pitcher. … We’d love to have him here. We’d love to have someone with that kind of stuff and that kind of maturity and knowledge to share with us.”

Almora, the sixth overall pick in 2012, signed at the deadline last season. Agent Scott Boras represents both Almora and Bryant.

• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or Follow him on Twitter at @kevindruley.

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