Pandemic puts strange spin on White Sox’s offseason pitching pursuit

Two White Sox players are unable to participate in training camp due to positive COVID-19 tests, but somehow the bar for blessing-counting keeps getting lowered. For one, the Sox players have been asymptomatic. Another bonus point: At least the White Sox got their test results.

The Oakland Athletics weren’t able to hold their first full squad workout because everybody forgot July 4 was a holiday. The samples they took on Friday sat in San Francisco until this morning, and Oakland GM David Forst was not happy.

“At this point, the blame lies with CDT and MLB and I won’t cover for them like I did earlier today. Despite having our schedule a week ahead of time, they didn’t alert us to the possibility of any complications around July 4th, and once there were issues, they did nothing to communicate that to us or remedy the situation until Nick (Paparesta, the A’s head athletic trainer) and I forced the issue at various times today. If possible, I’m as frustrated and pissed as you are (well, probably not as pissed as Matt is), and I assure you the rest of the staff is as well.”

The Washington Nationals — a team training in the nation’s capital — ran into the same problem regarding the celebration of America’s independence.

And the Astros canceled their workout as well due to similar circumstances.

Nobody’s pretending any of this is normal, but some White Sox are a little better than others at putting on a good face. Eloy Jiménez is still joshing and hyping and mugging, even if he can’t get all up in his teammates’ faces like he would prefer. Jose Abreu is using the season to express his dedication to the White Sox, even if he no longer has to worry about his next contract.

And then there’s Dallas Keuchel, whose attempt to bring veteran ballast to the rotation is delayed, but so far undeterred. Keuchel is more connected to baseball’s highest-profile COVID-19 case (Freddie Freeman) than any other White Sox, so he had to reflect on what that suggests about the situation.

“As much as you limit contact with people and social distance and this and that, it is what it is. I think about it every day. As much as I love baseball, when you have so many guys, it’s going to be tough to keep everything in check and in line.”

“I think it should be in the back of everybody’s mind,” Keuchel said. “At some point, we’ve got to live, and I don’t know when that point’s going to be. I’m trying to fear less than before.”

But James Fegan said that while “select quotes from Keuchel can come off as haunted,” the team’s new lefty is ultimately “one of the upbeat and optimistic ones.” He says he thinks that baseball players are more content to head home and play video games than get into trouble out of town, but his can-do attitude could also be representative of the phenomenon the Wall Street Journal’s Jared Diamond described.

With the health of thousands of people in the industry and billions of dollars at stake, all that’s standing in the way of a disastrous outcome is a demographic group not known for discipline, sound judgment and risk aversion: young men. A player choosing to visit a bar, go grocery shopping without a mask or fire up Tinder on the road could set off a chain reaction of infections and lead to the entire season crumbling down.

So baseball’s veterans are preparing to do what they’ve always done: keep the rookies in line.

Diamond pointed to guys like Todd Frazier, who lost his grandmother to COVID-19 and is trying to impress the dangers on his new Texas Rangers teammates. But he also said that teams might find themselves short on such veterans if the number of opt-outs starts to snowball.

One of those players in limbo is Zack Wheeler, who is wrestling with the idea of playing because his wife is expecting their first child later this month.

The paths of Wheeler and Keuchel are intertwined, because if Wheeler accepted an offer that would have smashed the record for the largest White Sox contract, Keuchel wouldn’t have entered the picture. Instead, the White Sox had to turn in another direction, landing Keuchel two weeks later. From his throwing hand to his attributes to his accomplishments, Keuchel is distinct enough from Wheeler to dodge many direct comparisons, but they can be stacked up on the simple matter of availability.

It’s no knock on Wheeler if he doesn’t pitch this season when others can. Everybody has their own situations and loved ones to consider, and “pregnant wife due soon” tells a complete and compelling story in just four words. It’d just be an unforeseen twist on the proceedings if the reason Wheeler gave for not taking top dollar with the White Sox — wanting to start a family closer to his wife’s relatives in New Jersey — ends up being the reason he doesn’t play for anybody this year, assuming anybody else can.

That doesn’t make Keuchel better than Wheeler, or even luckier. One just might have better timing to participate under conditions nobody could have imagined last December, if anybody can participate. I don’t imagine this was the luck Keuchel was talking about when it came to a 60-game season

“Honestly, I think luck is going to play a (big) role in the 60-game season,” White Sox starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel said Saturday. “It’s going to be who kind of catches fire early and then who kind of catches fire late. If you can come out hot and play well early, and then idle for 20 games, but then kind of catch fire again the last 10, 15 games — there’s a lot of different ways to do it. I’ve taken into account playoff years from my previous experience, and there’s a lot of different ways.”

… but as is the case with so much else this year — health, number of games, general enjoyment of life — everybody’s going to have to take what they can get.

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Shingos Cheeseburgers

Is it possible that the season gets canned but the players can still file a reasonable grievance that the season could have been possible if the testing portion wasn’t completely botched? Basically the league made assurances that the players would be playing in as safe an environment as feasible but was unable to follow through on that?


I think I saw somewhere that the entire testing apparatus is a joint MLB/PA venture, similar to PED testing, which would explain why MLBPA hasn’t formally chimed in on this yet.

Edit: It was from this Twitter thread:

As Cirensica

14,000 tests per week!!!
Holy shit…One testing facility in Utah? Using Fedex only because other providers don’t own their own planes? This ain’t gonna work.

As Cirensica

In 2020 season, the game postponed due rain becomes game postponed due testing delay. Double header will be announce after tests results are in. Also, it rained.

Eagle Bones

Hope this isn’t what it looks like.

White Sox third baseman Yoan Moncada was absent from the team's workout this morning via @CEmma670

— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) July 6, 2020

Josh Nelson

Eagle Bones

Doesn’t this sound like something one would say if they were trying not to disclose a medical condition? Not trying to out the guy if he has tested positive, just hope he’s ok.

Josh Nelson

I joined Dan Bernstein on 670 the Score this morning if you would like to listen:

Eagle Bones

Longenhagen updated his Sox prospect list post-draft for anyone interested. Here’s how he has things shaking out:

– Robert, Kopech, Vaughn, Madrigal predictably stayed 1-4 respectively
– Crochet slotted in at 5
– Dunning slides down to 6
– Kelley comes in at 7
– Bailey Horn just made the list at #40

Top ten looks much nicer now with those two slotted in (though that probably won’t last long with Robert, Kopech, Madrigal, etc. soon coming off).,1&team=chw


As Hawk always said: You’re gonna win 60 games and you’re gonna lose 60 games—-oh wait.


I haven’t seen anybody talking about the impact MLB might have on hopsitals.

My sister in law is a nurse who’s been on the COVID unit in Dallas. She said their COVID unit and their ICU are at capacity. That was two weeks ago, and cases in Texas have continued to rise since then. What if she runs out of beds because of Rangers players or their visiting opponents?

Sean Doolittle had some quote this week about how sports are a reward for a functioning society that has the pandemic under control. Texas definitely does not. They shouldn’t be allowed to play right now in Arlington, or Miami, or St Pete, or Phoenix.