Out­break among Mi­ami Mar­lins poses first test of pan­demic pro­to­cols

Af­ter Mar­lins out­break, team look­ing out for risks like never be­fore

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - RUS­SELL DORSEY rdorsey@sun­times.com | @Russ_Dorsey1

CINCIN­NATI — It’s only been six days, yet base­ball seems to be at a crit­i­cal point in its sea­son af­ter the Mar­lins be­came the first team to be hit by a coro­n­avirus out­break. Two games al­ready have been post­poned, with more com­ing this week — a sober­ing re­minder of the dan­gers of play­ing through a pan­demic.

It comes as a wake-up for all 30 teams, in­clud­ing the Cubs, who are in Cincin­nati for their first road trip this sea­son.

“It re-height­ens your aware­ness and con­tin­ues to cre­ate a fo­cus of go­ing through the pro­to­cols,” man­ager David Ross said. “It’s def­i­nitely an en­vi­ron­ment on the road where, all of a sud­den, I’m on a bus next to a bus driver I’ve never met. I’m in some­one else’s ve­hi­cle and in a ho­tel room. I mean, ev­ery­thing has been fol­lowed to a T, but there’s a sense of like, ‘Wow, this is dif­fer­ent.’ ”

The Mar­lins played in Philadel­phia over the week­end and were sup­posed to have faced the Ori­oles on Mon­day. Af­ter news broke of more than a dozen pos­i­tive tests among Mar­lins play­ers and staff, that game was called off, along with the sched­uled Yan­kees-Phillies game, due to pos­si­ble con­tam­i­na­tion in the vis­it­ing club­house.

The Cubs will have to con­tinue to be self-aware — not just while trav­el­ing from city to city, but also on the field and when en­ter­ing other parks and club­houses.

Reds in­fielder Matt David­son tested pos­i­tive for the coro­n­avirus af­ter play­ing in the sea­son opener Friday. In­fielder Mike Mous­takas went on the in­jured list with an undis­closed ill­ness Sun­day, and out­fielder Nick Sen­zel also missed the se­ries fi­nale af­ter feel­ing ill.

“I know that our team and the Reds have had re­ally great com­mu­ni­ca­tion com­ing into the se­ries,” Cubs out­fielder Ian Happ said. “[We’re] mak­ing sure that we know ex­actly where all their tests are and they know where ours are, so we feel com­fort­able get­ting on the field to­gether.”

Happ, the Cubs’ play­ers union rep, said there were dis­cus­sions among the team about what else they can do to in­crease safety, in­clud­ing base-run­ners wear­ing masks or even first base­man An­thony Rizzo wear­ing one when op­po­nents get on base.

It didn’t take long for some of those mea­sures to come into play; Kris Bryant put on a mask af­ter be­ing hit by a pitch and tak­ing first base in the first in­ning Mon­day.

“Each in­di­vid­ual team rep was hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions with both their own team, their own play­ers and the [union], just to be in­formed of what’s go­ing on,” Happ said. “As far as our club­house, as far as our sit­u­a­tion, we feel safe be­cause we’ve done a good job go­ing through ev­ery­thing, go­ing through all the pro­to­cols. I know that sit­u­a­tion is un­fold­ing, and we’re just try­ing to fig­ure out how ex­ten­sive it is.”

Said Ross: “I think some guys will feel more safe with a mask on. That’s their pre­rog­a­tive. I’m sure it’s height­ened the aware­ness of a lot of folks.”

An­other area where the Cubs have at­tempted to keep them­selves safer is their travel sched­ule. While teams of­ten ar­rive in their next city the night be­fore a road se­ries be­gins, the Cubs waited un­til Mon­day to make the trip to Cincin­nati. They re­main the only MLB team with­out a pos­i­tive COVID-19 test for a player.

It’s still to be de­ter­mined if base­ball or any sport at­tempt­ing to play this year will ac­tu­ally cross the fin­ish line.

“Ev­ery­body’s been stressed since the first sec­ond that we stepped into camp,” Happ said. “That’s the name of the game this year is deal­ing with the stress and man­ag­ing it. It’s not an easy sit­u­a­tion for any­body. From the play­ers down to ev­ery sin­gle staff mem­ber, it’s a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion, but ev­ery­body’s deal­ing with it re­ally well. I think that’s go­ing to be part of the chal­lenge this year.”

JOE ROB­BINS/GETTY IMAGES

Former Cub Nick Castel­lanos (left) chats with Ja­son Hey­ward dur­ing a rain delay be­fore the start of the game Mon­day night. The Cubs trav­eled to Cincin­nati on game day in­stead of the night be­fore to re­duce their risk of coro­n­avirus ex­po­sure.

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