Ross wants Cubs to start scrimmaging right away
This wasn't a typical July day at Wrigley Field, but it was a good time for Anthony Rizzo to sit back and appreciate a different view.
"We had our (team) meeting up in right field, whatever section that was where we had our meeting -- you should apply for season tickets there ASAP -- that view of Wrigley Field, I've never seen the view from that angle before," Rizzo said. "I was just blown away. You had the home dugout right there, just the whole vantage point.
"It just felt good to be back here. It feels good to be here and to be able to practice here and get back to a sense of normality."
For their first official practice of the coronavirus-shortened season, first-year manager spread things out. Pitchers reported in the morning, followed by catchers, then two groups of position players. In the middle of the day, there was a full team meeting in the stands.
Ross talked about some of the changes made at Wrigley Field to try to ensure player safety. Additional lockers at the center of the clubhouse to give players some room, no grooming products sitting on the sinks, no couches in the players' lounge.
He also shared an important message for his players -- stay home when not at the ballpark. Any lapse of judgment has a chance to knock guys out of the lineup, or worse. The players have already listened to pitching coach Tommy Hittovy describe his monthlong battle with COVID-19.
"I know this group is a professional group," Ross said. "They understand we're here to do a job, we're here to win and for us to succeed and win, we're going to have to follow some criteria and we're not going to be able to go out to bars. That puts teammates at risk. That puts people's family members at risk.
"We have high-risk teammates, we have high-risk family members that guys have at home. That would be an extremely selfish move on their part. I think they understand that and that will be addressed."
Rizzo is one of those high-risk teammates, in theory. He contracted Hodgkin lymphoma when he was 18 years old, but told reporters Friday he's not overly concerned.
"No, I spoke to my oncologist early on," Rizzo said. "Just like everyone else, be very cautious, wash your hands, wear the mask, all of the above. I am technically cured, thankfully. It's so far behind me now. As far as my body, my immune system, everything is up to par. I'm stronger than when I was 18."
Friday's actual workout was nothing exciting. It looked like a typical batting practice, with about one-fourth of the team on the field at a time. Players did interviews from the clubhouse via Zoom, even though a few dozen reporters were at the stadium.
Ross said he plans to start scrimmaging right away, though, and has scheduled three, three-inning intrasquad games for Saturday.
"Our pitchers are ready to throw live," Ross said. "They're already up to 3 innings. It's really impressive the work they've done (during the hiatus). We're not going to have any guys busting it down, giving the 'hard 90' from Day 1. We'll let them like, 'Pace yourselves, 70, take it nice, easy. Get your feet under you, get out of the box, swing, get down the line.'
"There's no substitute for live looks. When you're a hitter and a pitcher and a catcher, we learn so much from the interactions of competing that I want these guys to start turning that dial up a little bit."
Major-league teams will get about three weeks or training in before launching the 60-game season.
"I've been relating it to a college season," Ian Happ said. "Because the 56 games you play in college is as close as I can relate to with this."
Of course, not every major-league player went to college. Rizzo joined the Red Sox after high school.
"It's a 60-game sprint," Rizzo said. "This is really exciting. If we pull this off, which we're very capable of doing as an organization, and as a league ... this could be very exciting time."
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