Cubs and MLB face harsh reality after coronavirus outbreak

Cubs remain the only team in baseball without a positive player COVID-19 test.

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Cubs starting pitcher Yu Darvish wears a face covering before Saturday’s game against the Brewers at Wrigley Field.

Cubs starting pitcher Yu Darvish wears a face covering before Saturday’s game against the Brewers at Wrigley Field.

Paul Beaty/AP

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. Three games already have been postponed — 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.”

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