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White Sox know ‘there’s no way around’ the coronavirus

Right-hander Lucas Giolito says camp will be about building a winning mindset, but he knows being proactive about health is key.

“With Covid kind of back on the rise in [some] states it’s going to be imperative that as players we do everything we can do away from the field,” White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito said. “Practice social distancing, stay safe, not exposing ourselves to any risk at all in the sense of going out somewhere or being around a lot of people.”
“With Covid kind of back on the rise in [some] states it’s going to be imperative that as players we do everything we can do away from the field,” White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito said. “Practice social distancing, stay safe, not exposing ourselves to any risk at all in the sense of going out somewhere or being around a lot of people.”
Hannah Foslien//Getty Images

For three weeks in Chicago, the White Sox will be all about preparing for a 60-game season while trying to adhere to 100 pages of health and safety protocols for playing baseball in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic.

They’ll be about getting better, about being ready to pitch, hit and field like a postseason-caliber team. They’ll be about ‘‘a must-win mindset,’’ right-hander Lucas Giolito said on a conference call Friday.

‘‘We have a talented team,’’ said Giolito, who was an All-Star last season. ‘‘If we get off to a hot start and guys are playing well, that could put us over the edge into the playoff picture, where we want to be.’’

But there will be some levels of anxiety and uncertainty, too.

‘‘I don’t think anyone feels 100 percent comfortable,’’ Giolito said. ‘‘With COVID kind of back on the rise in [some] states, it’s going to be imperative that, as players, we do everything we can do away from the field. Practice social distancing, stay safe, not exposing ourselves to any risk at all in the sense of going out somewhere or being around a lot of people.

‘‘We’re all going to have to come together, maybe have a conversation like: ‘Hey if we want to get through this whole season and not worry about this as a team, we’re really going to have to hunker down away from the field.’ ’’

Catcher James McCann, who followed Giolito on the conference call, is the Sox’ player representative. Asked whether baseball should be played now, McCann said he would have given a resounding ‘‘yes’’ a week ago, before recent virus spikes in some states. But he knows the season has to start by late July, as planned. He also knows things can change in a hurry.

‘‘The virus is going to be here; I don’t think there’s any way around it,’’ McCann said.

Giolito has stayed on a throwing program while in Sacramento, California, throwing to high school, junior-college and minor-league hitters in simulated-game situations, getting up and down three times. From conversations he has had with other Sox starters, they are on similar paths.

‘‘I’m trying to get my innings in at a 15- to 20-pitch range, going through my entire warmup routine,’’ Giolito said. ‘‘That’s where I’m at. Communicating with Coop and Has [pitching coaches Don Cooper and Curt Hasler], and we’re going to have a program going forward.’’

Giolito said he also is being mindful about not licking his fingers and spitting, in accordance with the new rules.

‘‘It’s very tough because it’s like second nature if you’re that kind of guy when you compete,’’ he said. ‘‘There are definitely things you have to make adjustments for, but it’s all for the greater good, so I’m going to have to start practicing, for sure, and read up on those rules.’’

Three weeks will have to be enough time to get ready for the season, Giolito said. That said, he envisions being ready to pitch six or seven innings in his first start.

The NBA and NBA Players Association said Friday that 16 players tested positive for the coronavirus among 302 tests conducted Tuesday, an ominous reminder of the pandemic’s ongoing threat. Baseball has had more positive tests than that, but not among Sox players and staff, general manager Rick Hahn said Thursday.

‘‘We are trusting the experts, we are trusting science, we are trusting data,’’ Hahn said. ‘‘And following the lead of experts in the public-health arenas.’’

The Sox will adhere to protocols, Hahn said.

‘‘In the end, you trust the job that has been done at the [MLB] level, the Players Association level, the use of experts and science and data,’’ he said. ‘‘You put your best foot forward in making this work.’’