Albert Almora said he felt like he was "unleashed" when he was given the green light to return to the field following a wrist injury.
He wasn't kidding.
After a hot start to the 2013 campaign on the road — 8-for-15 (.571) with three doubles, three runs and two RBI — Almora didn't slow down in his debut at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark, the Kane County Cougars' home field.
In the first game of a doubleheader Saturday, Almora accounted for all four Cougars runs in a walk-off win, driving in two on a fifth-inning double and scoring a run in the third and seventh innings. He was 3-for-4 on the afternoon with two doubles and showcased his hustle on the basepaths as well as in the outfield.
During a fifth-inning rally from the Beloit Snappers, Almora made a nice sliding catch in center field, popped up and gunned down a runner at home who had tagged from third base, ending the threat and the inning.
"Albert's a booster shot for all of us," Nathan Dorris, Game 1's winning pitcher, said. "We're excited to have him. He brings energy to the team most people can't. He's a great player and people feed of guys like that. We get fired up."
Almora's presence has made life easier for Cougars manager Mark Johnson, both with his play on the field and the attitude in the clubhouse.
"He brings that extra added excitement to the lineup and the guys just feed off him," Johnson said. "His ability, the way he goes about his business, the way he plays defense, his at-bats, he's picked the team up when we needed a little push."
In the second game of the doubleheader, Almora added a single in three at-bats and his season average sits at .571 through five games.
The Cubs' 2012 first-round pick missed the first month-plus of the season after breaking the hamate bone in his left hand/wrist. In an interview with Cougars broadcaster Wayne Randazzo, Almora admitted the bone had actually been broken for more than a year and he had unknowingly been playing with it the whole time
The typical surgery for that type of injury is just to remove the bone, since it's unnecessary. With that out of the way, Almora feels nothing is holding him back for 2013 or beyond as the Cubs continue to build their foundation.
"It feels like my swing is looser," he said. "I've always had that pain there, for the last year-and-a-half. Now that it's gone, it's just a little scar there. I feel loose and nothing scares me and I want every swing.
"What they're building here is something to look forward to in a couple years. It's something I'm grateful to be a part of and I can't wait for things to come.
"I can't wait to come play tomorrow."