Hot­tovy still not 100%

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - BY STEVE GREEN­BERG, STAFF RE­PORTER sgreen­berg@sun­times.com | @SLGreen­berg

Nearly a month af­ter he fi­nally tested neg­a­tive for COVID-19, Cubs pitch­ing coach Tommy Hot­tovy is still feel­ing the ef­fects of his bat­tle with the virus.

Hot­tovy, who turned 39 on July 9, was sick for 30 days be­fore test­ing neg­a­tive. Along the way, he de­vel­oped pneu­mo­nia and nearly was put on a ven­ti­la­tor. In a mem­o­rable Zoom ses­sion with re­porters on July 1, he was un­able to tell his story with­out com­ing to tears sev­eral times. That was a lit­tle over two weeks af­ter test­ing neg­a­tive, and he es­ti­mated he was at about 80% phys­i­cally.

Af­ter Mon­day’s team work­out at Wrigley Field — which took place with­out man­ager David Ross — Hot­tovy gave an up­date on how he’s do­ing.

“I feel bet­ter ev­ery day and, ac­tu­ally be­ing out­side and be­ing on my feet so long, I feel like I’m get­ting stronger,” he said. “I’m ex­hausted by the end of the day, but I do feel like I’m get­ting stronger, ab­so­lutely.’’

Still not 100%, though. A thin guy to be­gin with, Hot­tovy lost about 20 pounds while ill.

“I’m con­tin­u­ing to do some tests and make sure that every­thing is good,” he said. “I’m get­ting good read­ings from all that stuff, so it’s giv­ing me more con­fi­dence to be out there.”

Ross and five other Tier 1 in­di­vid­u­als — that’s the group that in­cludes play­ers, coaches and other es­sen­tial on-field per­son­nel — missed the work­out, which started in the morn­ing, while wait­ing for de­layed re­sults of tests taken Satur­day.

Late in the af­ter­noon, the Cubs learned that the tests of Ross and four oth­ers came back neg­a­tive. The sixth test — which didn’t in­volve Ross or a player — was “com­pro­mised,” ac­cord­ing to a source, and re­mained pend­ing.

No Cubs player has tested pos­i­tive since in­take screen­ing be­gan be­fore pre­sea­son work­outs started. Pres­i­dent Theo Ep­stein be­lieves there have been “big strides” taken af­ter “ini­tial hic­cups” in MLB’s test­ing pro­gram.

“There’s a bit of a trade-off some­times be­tween tim­ing and ac­cu­racy,” Ep­stein said. “And we would pre­fer ac­cu­racy.”

Pall ball

Much is made of Ross’ zest­ful side, and give him credit: Wrigley was qui­eter with­out him on the field than it had been.

“It was a lit­tle weird with­out David here be­cause he’s all around us and gives us the sup­port that we need ev­ery sin­gle day,” catcher Willson Con­tr­eras said. “That’s some­thing that’s spe­cial for this team.”

No doubt the empty stands have some­thing to do with it, but Ross so far has had a far louder voice — speak­ing purely in terms of volume here — than pre­de­ces­sor Joe Mad­don. From the press box above, it has been easy to hear Ross shout­ing from the dugout, ad­dress­ing his team on the grass or even chant­ing to him­self.

“We have ner­vous en­ergy,” Ross said over the week­end. “Well, I guess I’m speak­ing for my­self.”

Quin­tana com­ing along

From every­thing Hot­tovy has heard, start­ing pitcher Jose Quin­tana is on track to start throw­ing again later this week. The lefty sliced a nerve in his pitch­ing thumb June 27 while wash­ing dishes.

Quin­tana has kept up with shoul­der pro­grams and other up­per-body and con­di­tion­ing ex­er­cises, but how soon he’ll be able to join the ro­ta­tion af­ter games be­gin July 24 re­mains one of the big­gest ques­tions fac­ing the team.

Alec Mills has looked good enough in camp to be con­sid­ered the heavy fa­vorite to start in Quin­tana’s place. Duane Un­der­wood, who looked like a world-beater in Sun­day’s in­trasquad scrim­mage, strik­ing out six in re­lief, could step into the role Mills was ex­pected to play in long re­lief.

It’s an im­por­tant one, too, con­sid­er­ing starters aren’t ex­pected to eat the usual num­ber of in­nings af­ter such a short ramp-up to Open­ing Day.

AP

Pitch­ing coach Tommy Hot­tovy chats with Duane Un­der­wood, who looked like a world-beater Sun­day.

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