Cubs being cautious about virus as MLB keeps media away from players

Tuesday was the first day that media weren’t allowed in locker rooms around the majors.

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Javy Baez flips his helmet as he talks with the Giants’ Wilmer Flores during a pitching change in the second inning Tuesday.

Javy Baez flips his helmet as he talks with the Giants’ Wilmer Flores during a pitching change in the second inning Tuesday.

Matt York/AP

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — If it wasn’t guarded optimism, then the Cubs were treating MLB’s additional coronavirus precautions handed down late Monday with reasonable concern while trying not to overreact.

Not only was Tuesday the first day that media weren’t allowed in locker rooms around the majors, players also were being more cautious regarding interaction with fans.

Yet, Tuesday was far more normal than not. The players had their regular workout in the morning and then played a game in front of a packed house at Scottsdale Stadium against the Giants.

The only thing truly out of place, outside of Cubs starter Tyler Chatwood being interviewed via speakerphone, was the cloud cover in the desert.

At White Sox camp in Glendale, reporters honored the MLB request to conduct interviews at a distance of 6 feet, but otherwise the day went on as usual in advance of a game against the Rangers.

“We just listen to the experts, the people in charge, and MLB seems to have a good handle on this and doing all the rigorous work it takes to figure out what’s important and how to best contain this thing,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “Make sure for our safety, the players’ safety, everybody’s safety around major-league baseball, and we’re just following orders.”

After a morning in the clubhouse without media, Anthony Rizzo called the situation “different.” He appreciated MLB’s stance to do what is best for all involved.

“Listen, they’re taking this very serious with the virus, and they want to protect everyone they can because it’s just so unknown right now,” Rizzo said. “Everyone’s hearing it and panicking and this and that, so it’s something they’re going to take serious.

“I’m sure it’s not ideal for anyone in the media, especially you guys that are here with us every day. But I know [we] will try to make it as accommodating as we can.”

Cubs outfielder Steven Souza Jr. said he will operate pretty much as normal. And if anybody has reason to be guarded over the situation, it’s him. Souza is a resident of Woodenville, Washington, which is near a significant virus outbreak in neighboring Kirkland.

“It feels like it’s the flu, to me,” Souza said. “I don’t know. I’m not that concerned about it. I don’t change my day. I don’t avoid people. I’m not really too concerned about it. I see the concern. Obviously, there have been some deaths from it, so it’s a very serious thing, but I don’t think there is enough stuff out there to warrant a panic over here in the U.S.”

Yet, the Ivy League announced that its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments would be canceled. In the California desert, the Coachella music festival was postponed one day after the area’s high-profile tennis tournament at Indian Wells was postponed.

Ross was asked if he thought the season would be postponed beyond its scheduled opening March 26.

“I’m not there yet,” he said. “I know there are some people that are thinking that. I’m going to prepare as if Opening Day is the 26th, and I will prepare that way until I hear otherwise.”

Rizzo was hoping that games played without fans would not become a reality.

“I would definitely fight against that,” Rizzo said. “We play for the fans. We’re employed because of the fans. I know what they bring to us, the energy . . . especially in Wrigley Field.”

Ross said that in the end, neither the players nor the media will be most affected by coronavirus precautions.

“The fans may get impacted a little bit in some areas; you hope not,” Ross said. “Maybe it’s just a photo. Fans are into photos right now . . . selfies. Maybe players start wearing batting gloves. I don’t know all the answers to all that, but we’ll figure out a way. The fans are really important.”

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