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White Sox catcher James McCann, reliever Steve Cishek offer voices of reason on baseball’s return

“The best way to word it is we are at the mercy of the virus,” James McCann said. “Assuming we get a hold on it, I definitely think there will be baseball.”

White Sox catcher James McCann gestures to his fielders during a spring training baseball game against the Brewers in 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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Another day, another potential plan for Major League Baseball to return has been revealed, the latest one aligning teams that train in Arizona to form one league and teams that train in Florida to form another, with the winners playing for the World Series championship.

The White Sox would be division rivals with the Dodgers, Reds, Indians and Angels in the Cactus League West. The Cubs would be in the Cactus Northeast with the Giants, Diamondbacks, Rockies and Athletics.

That was reported Friday by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale as the latest wrinkle uncovered as MLB considers numerous plans to get its game up and running should the United States get a grip on the coronavirus.

“Baseball is better than no baseball, and if that type of schedule for this season allows for it, all the more power for a way to make it happen,” Sox catcher James McCann said on a conference call Friday.

McCann and Sox right-hander Steve Cishek, both veterans and representatives in the players’ union, offered voices of reason, however.

Earlier this week, it was reported that MLB was exploring the sequestering of all 30 teams in Arizona and playing out the regular-season schedule there. In one such scenario, games would be televised but played without fans, with players and staff separated from their families for possibly four months or more.

“I would have a hard time agreeing to play under those circumstances,” said Cishek, 33, who is married with two children.

“Telling guys they have to leave their families indefinitely to then go isolate themselves, I don’t know that that’s the right answer,” said McCann, 29, a married father of twin boys.

Testing for the virus would be essential, and playing would be contingent on testing being available for all, McCann said.

“I wouldn’t feel right as a human being taking away tests that were needed for the general public for people that really were sick just to make sure we could play a game,” McCann said.

What everyone wants to know is, will there be baseball at all in 2020?

“The best way to word it is we are at the mercy of the virus,” McCann said. “Assuming we get a hold on it, I definitely think there will be baseball. As long as there are no external forces that don’t allow us to play, I’m currently planning on being able to play. What that will look like? I don’t know.”

While waiting for answers, McCann is at home in Franklin, Tennessee, hitting off a tee and machine in former Cub Ben Zobrist’s barn. Cishek is home in Jupiter, Florida, training under a back patio, throwing into a net and waiting for a mound to be delivered that will allow him to throw bullpen sessions in the backyard.

“Obviously, we’re all itching to play,’’ Cishek said. “But we kind of have to know what’s going on a little bit more first. . . . Clearly, we don’t really have a hold on this virus.”

Cishek’s mother and a cousin work at hospitals in health care.

“Obviously, [health-care workers are] our biggest heroes right now, and the last thing we want to do is make more work for them and put them at more risk,” he said.

As McCann said, the current situation is significantly bigger than one game of baseball.

“You’re talking about life and death for thousands and thousands of people,” McCann said, “and as much as we love the game and want to be on the field, there are priorities. And keeping people healthy and safe needs to be a priority.

“If we rush things, we possibly create a recipe for disaster, whether that is with coming back too soon and people getting coronavirus or you rush back things to where guys aren’t ready to play, and you have injuries that last into following seasons.”