Cubs pitching coach back from illness, understands concern about restart
The first few days of baseball's summer training have featured some positive tests for coronavirus around the league, along with some guys electing not to play in the 60-game shortened season.
The Cubs appear to be at full strength, but they have a living example of how things can go wrong in pitching coach Tommy Hottovy, who endured a monthlong battle with COVID-19.
"I fully support anybody that feels like it's too much of a risk as well," Hottovy said Sunday. "We're all weighing this situation. My family and I needed to discuss whether I wanted to come back and be a part of what we had going on. I just felt for me and my family, we talked through it, it was the right decision for me to be back."
The Cubs safety routine begins at home, when all players and coaches use an app to answer health questions, then take a temperature reading. When they arrive at Wrigley Field, their temperature is taken again.
All the Cubs have either heard Hottovy's story or lived through it via virtual meetings. Manager David Ross talked about how concerning it was when Hottovy couldn't get two words out without coughing.
"I'm feeling a lot better," Hottovy said. "Still have a little ways to go, still got some tests and things to make sure I get done just to make sure everything's functioning the way it's supposed to. Protocol-wise, we're all under the same rules, we're doing the same things, social distancing, the masks.
"I by no means feel immune to this virus. From what I understand, I do have the antibodies, but I could definitely still be a carrier and put some of our guys at risk if I were to contract it again. Definitely something I weigh every day when I come to the ballpark."
With this in mind, Ross is trying to take a one-day-at-a-time approach to the season, because everything can change quickly. Things have already changed, actually, with veteran starter Jose Quintana knocked out by a household accident.
Hottovy said he's trying to get the pitchers ready to go as quickly as possible, because the Cubs can't count on everyone being available three weeks from now.
"Right now in my mind we have seven opening-day starters, because if you can get everybody healthy through a spring training like this, you can't space them out too much in my opinion because we can't take that chance," Hottovy said.
For Sunday's intrasquad scrimmage, the pitching matchup was Tyler Chatwood against Alec Mills. Chatwood was touched up for 4 runs. He gave up an RBI double to Javy Baez in the first inning and a two-run triple to Kyle Schwarber in the second. Steven Souza Jr. doubled off Mills and scored a run.
Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish pitched Saturday, which means the projected starter yet to take the mound in a scrimmage is veteran Jon Lester.
"Jon actually threw a bullpen today (Sunday) and looked really good," Hottovy said. "He was a guy that really wanted to manage his throws. As he put it, he wanted to save as many bullets as he possibly could. That doesn't mean he wasn't throwing a baseball, he was staying active, he's in a really good spot. We should see Jon in a live BP setting in about 2 or 3 days."
The Cubs are planning to have batting practice with no scrimmage on Monday.
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