GENEVA – Kane County Cougars general manager Curtis Haug admits it’s never too early to explore extending a player development contract.
As the club enters the final season of a two-year PDC with the parent Cubs, Haug fixes an upbeat gaze on the potential of Years 3, 4 and perhaps beyond.
“We’ve talked about it a little bit already. It’s definitely on the radar. We’re very optimistic about it,” Haug said Tuesday. “It’s a good relationship that I can’t see there being any issue with that. We’re looking forward to it. It’s something that you talk about it alot, you just want to make sure the time is right to extend.”
The Cougars attracted 406,152 fans last season despite a 55-80 finish, the worst in club history. Attendance marked a 10 percent increase from 2012, as the Cougars became the first Class-A franchise to attract 10 million fans in July.
Kane County has been aligned with the Baltimore Orioles, Florida Marlins, Oakland Athletics, Kansas City Royals and Cubs since moving to Geneva from Wausau, Wis., before the 1991 season.
The 2015 season will be the club’s 25th in the Fox Valley.
“Already, we’re thinking of logos and putting together ideas and things,” Haug said.
Back in the saddle: Eight players spent all or part of 2013 in Kane County, including All-Star left-hander Nathan Dorris.
“Obviously, nobody wants to repeat a level,” Dorris said, “but my job here is to pitch, not to make decisions. So that’s what I’m going to do is just go out here and try to set a good example for these younger guys and, you know, hopefully we can get off on the right foot and have a little bit better of a season than we did last year.”
Manager Mark Johnson lauded the team’s work ethic as a whole, and is confident the group of returners will use this as a boost.
“There’s no time for pouting or whining,” Johnson said. “There’s alot of people in a lot of jobs who are disappointed with where they’re at. But you just put your head down and go to work.”
Pitching in: Taiwanese righty Jen-Ho Tseng, 19, was set to join the Cougars Tuesday night. A nondrafted free agent last summer, Tseng enters his first professional season with a good grasp of “The Cubs Way,” if not American culture. Tseng, projected as the fifth starter, will have a translator who travels with the team.
“For a 19-year-old, he throws strikes with all three pitches, and they’re all three above-average pitches,” Johnson said. “He’s going to have little bumps in the road holding runners and things like that, but that’ll come. But he’s ready to pitch here, I believe.”
Righty Paul Blackburn, a supplemental first-round pick in the 2012 draft, gets the call in Thursday’s season opener at Quad Cities.
Blackburn was 2-3 with a 3.33 ERA for Short-A Boise last season, striking out 38 and walking 29 in 46 innings.
“We should be good, pitching wise, if everyone just does their own part and just kind of works with one another,” Blackburn said. “I mean, our whole team is good, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Weather the storm: In a clubhouse teeming with Latin American and Californian players unaccustomed to the cold, leave it to Dorris, a Carbondale product, to deliver arguably the best weather-related quip on the heels of spring training in Mesa, Ariz.
“We didn’t have enough room on the plane to pack some of the weather and bring it here with us,” Dorris said, “but hopefully it’ll warm up before long.”