GENEVA – Left-hander Rob Zastryzny embraced his role as the new guy Wednesday afternoon, greeting Cougars teammates as they approached his locker or he saw them elsewhere in the clubhouse.
The second-round draft pick of the parent Cubs in June only met a handful of current Cougars while beginning his summer with Short-A Boise. Zastryzny is optimistic about making similarly seamless introductions along a hopeful path to Wrigley Field.
“Personality-wise, every team I’ve been on has been really nice,” Zastryzny said. “It’s just a bunch of baseball players out there chasing after their dreams. We all have the same goal, we all have the same interest, and that’s really fun.”
Drafted after his junior season at Missouri, Zastryzny – pronounced ZAS-tris-nee – fields one question in particular early in most conversations. Hint: it’s all in a name.
“Ooooh. That’s a tough one,” manager Mark Johnson said. “That’s even a tough one to spell.”
Zastryzny actually found run support harder to come by during his final collegiate season. He went 2-9 overall but was often the victim of a lack of offense. The Tigers backed him with just 25 runs in 10 Southeastern Conference starts covering 71 innings.
Zastryzny learned of his promotion from Boise while golfing Monday. Born in Edmonton, Alberta, but a longtime resident of Texas after his parents took jobs there during his infancy, he remarked about the abundance of Blackhawks apparel at the airport. Zastryzny is an avid Edmonton Oilers fan.
The Cougars plan to make Zastryzny the second leg of a piggyback with Cubs fourth-rounder Tyler Skulina beginning Friday. The Cubs are easing Zastryzny into his development; he pitched just 141/3 innings over eight games and seven starts at Boise, compiling a 3.04 ERA.
“I’m not sure how long I’ll go or whatever,” Zastryzny said. “I just kind of can’t wait to get out there and throw. It doesn’t really matter how long.”
Hobbled Almora reeling good: Sidelined on the 7-day disabled list with a groin injury retroactive to Monday, Cougars center fielder Albert Almora won’t be seen between the lines at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark for another short while.
Apparently, his other favorite pastime remains intact.
On Wednesday, Almora tweeted a picture of himself holding up a proud catch from the Fox River. Fishing is a favorite hobby of Almora and several housemates who live with host parents Warren and Sam Drewes of St. Charles along Route 31.
As for the injury, Almora tweaked his groin during Sunday’s game at Clinton. Johnson said Almora first felt a twinge while darting out of the batter’s box in his first at-bat, then later while pursuing a ball in the outfield.
He left the game in the fourth inning after flying out to center field.
“He’s ready to do whatever he’s got to do to get ready to come back,” Johnson said. “He’s going to work harder than anybody else to come back from things. That’s why he is the player that he is.”
Almora was leading the Cougars with a .329 average and .376 on-base percentage in 61 games, with three home runs and 23 RBIs.
• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @kevindruley.