Cubs, White Sox start treading into uncharted waters
This is the week major-league baseball has been looking forward to for months.
It's also a week that comes with a fair share of dread.
Resuming the game is going to provide needed shots of normalcy all around, but there are multiple unknowns and health risks in the age of the coronavirus pandemic.
"What we're asking the players to do is extremely difficult," new Cubs manager David Ross said Monday on a video call. "I don't want to make light of how hard this environment is going to be for those guys."
Players and staff with the Cubs and White Sox are heading back to Chicago early this week.
They are all scheduled to go through medical testing and COVID-19 screening by Wednesday and begin workouts at Wrigley Field and Guaranteed Rate Field on Friday.
The 60-game regular season opens July 23, reportedly with four teams playing.
The other 26 major-league teams are scheduled to start July 24.
"It's a 60-game sprint, and we're doing it under unusual circumstances," said Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer, who joined Ross on Monday's call. "I'm excited we're at this point. It's been since March 12 that we've been waiting for this, waiting for baseball. I think we've all been frustrated.
"There have obviously been far bigger concerns in the world than baseball, but at the same time this is what we do for a living and we haven't been able to do that for a while. We're just excited about it. There are going to be challenges ahead of us, I don't think there's any question about that. I certainly hope nothing derails it."
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, manager Rick Renteria, starting pitcher Lucas Giolito and catcher James McCann expressed similar hopes and concerns on video calls late last week.
There are so many unknowns in the days ahead, but here is where the Cubs and Sox stand in the present:
• Hoyer said two "Tier 1" staff members tested positive for coronavirus and won't be at Wrigley Friday for the beginning of camp.
The Tier 1 group consists of players, managers, coaches and on-field and medical personnel. Tier 2 are front-office officials.
Hoyer said that under the HIPPA Privacy Rule, he can't name the two staff members that tested positive. Both were tested at home.
"Going forward, I know it's going to be something we talk about all summer," Hoyer said. "We're not at liberty to give out names. We're allowed to talk about numbers and things like that. It's up to individuals to decide if they want to announce it."
• Most Cubs and White Sox players are going to be tested Wednesday at Wrigley and Guaranteed Rate Field.
According to Hoyer, the Tier 1 group will be tested every other day. The Cubs' GM "thinks" the Tier 2 group is going to be tested twice a week.
• As the days progress, players and staff members will check their temperature at home on a daily basis before they head to the ballpark, and they will have it checked again when they arrive.
If a temperature is 100.4 or higher, the player or staff member will be sent home and subjected to more frequent testing.
• Last week, Hahn said no Sox player had yet decided to opt out of the season due to health concerns.
Hoyer delivered the same news Monday. Like Hahn, he realizes that can change at a moment's notice.
"Everyone's going to come to these decisions from a different angle," Hoyer said. "But I don't think anyone that plays in the major leagues is going to make that decision lightly. We would respect the decision and understand that this is being made from a very important place of wanting to keep either themselves or keep their family members safe."