Comings And Goings In Cougars Roster Shuffle

GENEVA, IL - When the Kane County Cougars arrived at Elfstrom Stadium for Sunday's game, there were two familiar faces in the clubhouse and one old friend who was not there.

Fresh off a long flight from Vancouver, Chris Affinito and Jose Crisotomo were in uniform and ready to suit up in the Cougars' patriotic 4th of July uniforms. Meanwhile, outfielder Kent Walton earned a promotion from Kane County to High-A Stockton.

The three promoted players have one thing in common: they've been red hot. But it's the path that each of them has taken to their promotion that makes them different.

The once-and-current Cougar Chris Affinito is just happy to be back in Kane County. Affinito was a member of the Cougars' Opening Day roster, but he struggled mightily during the first part of his season.

Affinito hit just .141 during his first tenure with Kane County, before being demoted. He was originally sent back to Arizona for extended spring training, but eventually sent to the A's short-season A affiliate in Vancouver.

Once he arrived in Vancouver, Affinito was able to fix his both the physical and mental side of his game. Changing the physical aspect of his game was the easiest part for him.

Affinito has dropped 20 pounds since spring training and 10 pounds since he was sent to Vancouver. He admits changing his workout regiment made him slimmer but stronger, which has really changed his game.

But the biggest change for Affinito is in his mechanics at the plate. During his time in Vancouver, Affinito sought the help of hitting instructor Casey Myers, who was able to correct Affinito's biggest problems.

"Basically, the biggest thing that I changed was my approach at the plate. Making sure my foot's down on time," Affinito said.

"With my foot being down on time, I'll be able to hit more balls solidly and [I'm] looking for the pitches that I can try to hit hard and not try to chase other pitches that I can do damage with."

During his short stay in Vancouver, Affinito hit .320 with a .493 OBP. The demotion hurt Affinito, but he didn't get down. Instead, he used it as inspiration to return to Kane County.

"It motivated me. Of course, whenever you first hear you're getting sent down, it's a blow. But if you really love the game, you use it to motivate yourself to get better, and it was a good learning experience," Affinito said.

Affinito wasn't alone on his plane ride from Vancouver. Joining him on the trip was Jose Crisotomo, a former international free agent from the Dominican Republic.

During his short stay in Vancouver, the outfielder hit .267 and gave his team great depth in the outfield, which earned him a promotion to Kane County.

Now that Crisotomo is a Cougar, he will be mixed into the rotation in the outfield. He will rotate with the Cougars three other outfielders on the roster.

The news that Crisotomo finally earned a promotion through the system gave him a big reason to be excited.

"It feels good right now," Crisotomo said of his promotion. "The team has given me an opportunity to move up, and I just want to continue on the progress of my career."

Crisotomo's new manager, Aaron Nieckula, expects the 21-year old outfielder to give Kane County a strong contribution like he did in Vancouver.

"Crisotomo is a young outfielder that has tremendous skills and tremendous abilities," Nieckula said.

"He can run, he's got a good arm, (he's a) contact type hitter. We're excited to have both of those guys as part of the Cougars for the second half to make a run for the playoffs," Nieckula said.

Now that he's a Cougar, Crisotomo's focus is simple: stay aggressive and stay consistent.

"Basically, I just have to prove myself up here by staying aggressive and sticking to my game plan that I've stuck to, that's brought me to where I'm at this moment," Crisotomo said.

Now that he's in Kane County, Crisotomo is reunited with many old teammates from the past. As he walked into the dugout for the first time, he was greeted by handshakes and hugs from teammates and a new opportunity at a new level.

Leaving the Cougars on Sunday was outfielder Kent Walton, who was promoted to High-A Stockton. He replaces Shane Keough on the Ports' roster after Walton hit .270 with 32 RBIs in 52 games.

Walton has dealt with a trying 2010 campaign. The A's 23rd round selection in the 2009 draft overcame a fractured thumb, and missed most of May.

Walton was able to fight through his injury, and put together 52 games as a Cougar. Nieckula credits the promotion to Walton's strong work ethic.

"Anytime you're on the DL, it's tough," Nieckula said. "You have a tendency to backtrack a little bit because you can't work on your skills on an everyday basis. Once he got healthy enough to start working and getting better, he certainly did that, [he] took it upon himself to stay in shape, and once he got off the DL, he was a big reason for our success."

With a promotion in hand, Affinito, Crisotomo and Walton will continue their professional careers at a new level. Two of those players have reached new heights, while one of those players is returning to an old home. Now, the three players will need to stay consistent and stay hot if they hope to receive more promotions through the A's system.

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