Moncada hopes to rebound next season after scary bout with COVID-19
As they prepared to come out of a long layoff caused by COVID-19 and open a three-week summer training camp at Guaranteed Rate Field, the White Sox put Yoan Moncada on the first Zoom call to discuss the unusual upcoming season.
It was a good choice.
Moncada had a monster 2019 season and the third baseman was projected to make a run at the American League MVP trophy this year.
On the video call with reporters, Moncada looked good and couldn't wait to get back to work.
"I was ready to play as soon as they told us that it was all figured out," Moncada said through a translator. "For me, this is what I do. I feel good. I'm ready to go."
After exiting the Zoom call, Moncada was not heard from again for over two weeks.
"I want to let you know that I tested positive for COVID-19," he said on July 16, just over a week before the regular season opener. "Thank God I was asymptomatic for the most part. I am good now and healthy and I'm just glad and happy to be back."
Moncada got ready to play in a hurry, and he was in the Sox's starting lineup for the opening game on July 24 against the Twins.
Picking right up where he left off last season, Moncada went 6-for-14 with a home run and 4 RBI in his first three games.
After that, he slowed way down and it became clear something wasn't right with the 25-year-old infielder.
Playing with a sore left leg seemed to be the issue until Moncada shed some frightening light on his health status.
"Definitely, my body hasn't felt the same after the virus," he said in early September. "I feel a lack of energy, strength, it's just a weird feeling. When I got to Chicago before I tested positive, I was feeling strong and with energy. Now, it's like a daily battle to try to find that strength, that energy to go through the day.
"But that's something that I have to deal with and it is what it is. I have to find a way to get through it."
Moncada did stay on the field, and he finished the season with a .225/.320/.385 hitting line to go with 6 homers and 24 RBI in 52 games.
In 2019, the switch-hitter slashed .315/.367/.548 with 25 home runs and 79 RBI in 132 games.
Late in the season, Moncada scored a run at Cleveland and gave the White Sox another scare.
"Back in the dugout, he just couldn't catch his breath," Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "This is a 25-year-old athlete, world-class athlete with world-class medical care, and he was feeling the effects of it. For him to do what he did, and obviously it wasn't your typical Yoan Moncada season and certainly not what we foresee him doing in the future, but it really took a (heck) of an effort by him and by our trainers and our physicians just to keep him going at that level."
The obvious hope is Moncada comes back completely healthy is 2021, but that is not a guarantee.
"The only part that is unknown is that we haven't seen anyone, athlete or otherwise, 12 months out after being infected," Hahn said. "As a society we don't know what are the necessary long-term impacts or can there be recurrences or future impacts that are unforeseen in the first six to eight months of exposure. That's not idiosyncratic to Yoan, that's just the nature of the virus.
"I'm at least happy to be able to say every test we've given him, from EKGs to vitamin levels, to every scan for blood or picture-wise, CT scan-wise, has come back normal. That's good. There doesn't seem to be a physiological damage to him, which is obviously a good starting point."