Those watching Yoán Moncada this season know something isn’t right, but it doesn’t always look like the same thing that’s wrong. Oftentimes it takes the form of an obvious hamstring strain, except that wouldn’t explain why he’s swinging a cement bat in some games, or throwing a 20-pound baseball across the diamond in others.
Rick Renteria couldn’t exactly clarify matters. He called it a leg issue, but his description seemed mostly intended to distinguish it from a strain, or something else that could get worse by playing.
“It’s the same thing (that’s been bothering him). It’s the irritation he has in the back of his leg,” Renteria said. […]
“I would say (the issue is) in the general area (of his hamstring). That would be accurate. I wouldn’t call it a hamstring, but general area.”
The White Sox have tried to push Moncada too hard with previous ailments, so there’s reason to second-guess Renteria’s judgment. But there was also the part about the Sox using the words “fatigue” and “body aches” to describe a rest in mid-August. And above everything else, Moncada had contracted COVID-19 before summer camp. The White Sox talked around that, too, at least until Moncada was ready to reveal it himself.
Basically, there was reason to believe the White Sox’s iffy management of Moncada was rooted in discretion, not carelessness. And sure enough, Moncada said that he’s still battling the effects of COVID-19 more than a month and a half later.
“I feel a lack of energy, strength. It’s just a weird feeling,” Moncada said through an interpreter Thursday before a game against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. “It’s different. When I got to Chicago before I tested positive, I was feeling strong and with energy.
“Now, it’s like a daily battle to try to find that strength, that energy to go through the day. But that’s something that I have to deal with, and it is what it is. I have to find a way to get through it.”
He did say that his legs are a particular issue, but not in a way that gets worse. And he sounded somewhat pleased that his numbers (.242/.333/.411) don’t look as bad as he feels. Finding middle ground for his walk rate, which is 12.5 percent after diving to 7.2 percent last year, is helping him keep the line moving in lieu of harder contact.
While COVID-19 is clinically novel, its effect in a baseball context might look a lot like valley fever. That’s another lung-centric ailment that has a way of lingering for unusually long amounts of time in some people, while others never know they have it. Steve Stone might have something to say about that, although he didn’t sound interested in discussing it last year.
This might be the toughest part of Renteria’s job for the rest of 2020. Ideally the White Sox would find somebody more capable of impact to take his starts, but a field led by Danny Mendick and Yolmer Sánchez isn’t going to do it. If playing doesn’t jeopardize Moncada’s greater availability and he just has to wait for the fatigue issue to resolve itself, there may be some value in keeping him engaged in game action.
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The White Sox also had to apprise everybody of Reynaldo López’s situation, because López himself said he didn’t have conclusive answers following his second-inning hook on Wednesday. With López speaking through a translator, I’m not going to feel confident assigning a tone on it, but there’s a definite disconnect between what he said and what everybody saw.
“I guess he has his reasons, but I don’t understand,” López said through team interpreter Billy Russo. “What is important now — beside my condition that I feel good, I feel strong — is that I have to work to get my rhythm. I think that’s the missing part of this puzzle. Once I get that rhythm, once I get to the rhythm that I had during spring training, I think things are going to start going better and work for me and for the team of course.”
The club provided one answer with actions instead of words, optioning López to Schaumburg before the start of the series against Kansas City. Bernardo Flores Jr. joined the team for immediate bullpen length, and I’m guessing he’ll return to Schaumburg to open a spot for Carlos Rodón in Pittsburgh.
Renteria still sounds supportive of López, but there’s also no clear path for him back right now. That’s not great news if he wants to be a starter as soon as possible, but good news if he just wants to get back to the majors no matter what.
“I think that all options are on the table,” Rick Renteria said before Thursday’s game. “I think we need to have him be able to help us. Obviously he’s got a good arm and he’s shown such great signs in his first go-around. We want to find that guy again. But certainly he can help us and we’ll have all options on the table.”
I’ve been skeptical of López’s ability in the bullpen, if only because he doesn’t have a swing-and-miss secondary offering or the grounder-inducing ability that typically allows a reliever to work innings of any importance. He’s always used above-average fastball velocity and command to push teams around on his best days. When he doesn’t have that prime command, he’s a homer-prone-but-serviceable starter, throwing 180 innings that lesser pitchers don’t have to cover.
In his current form where he neither has command nor exceptional power, I don’t see anything playing up, even in shorter outings. The hope is that he can find the missing velocity with side work, which would at least allow him to be a cromulent opener as we saw in his tandem outing with Gio González. Some might not hope at all, but given the tendency for injuries and the way even critically flawed pitchers resurface on the South Side, some amount of finger-crossing is recommended.
(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)
I wonder if playing every other day will help Moncada. Not ideal for the White Sox, but if this team wants to win come playoff time, they’ll do better with him in the lineup for every game. Perhaps giving him an extra day to rest could help.
I still think they should put him on the IL. He might have a better chance at finding his legs with some rest then rehab in Schaumberg.
The fact that fatigue comes and goes unpredictably with Covid-19 makes an IL stint inadvisable. Play him on those days when he says that he can do it, and rest him when he can not, and hope that his stamina improves sufficiently to make him more viable for the playoffs. His fWAR number is pretty impressive even with his fatigue.
Very much agreed. Now would be the perfect time to do it. A 10-day IL stint starting today would cause him to miss:
-3 against the Royals
-2 against the Pirates
-3 against the Tigers
-2 off days
i.e. teams we should be able to beat without him.
Over the last 14 days, Moncada is hitting .167/.278/.233. The slugging is the most alarming of those to me. If this team wants to do something meaningful in the postseason, they will absolutely need his bat. Time to recharge it.
I think a big unknown here is how he improves. More rest might be the answer, but it could also just be something that has to kind of be worked back to full strength.
Does anyone know if the Sox could use the COVID list, which I think is different from the IL, to shuffle Moncada in and out of the lineup when he isn’t feeling right while also allowing them to get an extra bench bat from Schaumburg?
For instance, if they can put him on the COVID list for a day that they know he’s fatigued then take him off when he feels well enough to start. Then they can bring a guy like Zack Collins or Yermin Mercedes up for the day as a bench bat with some pop.
It doesn’t sound like Moncada qualifies for it, at least per MLB.com.
When he said he is having issues from COVID my concern is if he still should be playing. My concern is for his long term health for him and his family. Of course we hate to lose his bat but his health is more important than anything else.
Anecdotally – and clearly I’m far from a world class athlete – I’ve found COVID recovery more difficult than I expected. I was training for a 10k and, In fact, ran 7.5 miles a few hours before developing symptoms. My symptoms were relatively mild, but 10 days later, once my symptoms subsided, I couldn’t even make it 2 miles (and very slowly) without chest and leg pain. 10 days off will always set you back, but not like this. I’ve been working back up to strength, but I can already tell it’s going to be a longer road than I thought.
Just curious, wow old are you, if you don’t mind me asking (feel free to ignore if you do)?
I just turned 30 and keep in good shape. Obviously, I’m not comparing myself to Moncada, it’s just my own experience. My symptoms, again, were very mild (not as bad as an average flu, say), but lingering.
For what it’s worth, the only other baseball player I know of that’s dealt with a symptomatic case of COVID is Freddie Freeman and he’s bounced back very well. His 159 wRC+ and 91.6 EV are both career highs. I guess it’s just a reminder that it effects folks differently.
Thanks for sharing, hope you’re able to recover fully.
Yes. Same here. Full recovery wishes.
Very interesting. There is still so much we don’t know about covid-19. I am 50 (and definitely not in good shape), and I really don’t want to contract it. I rarely leave the house nowadays. I already know two people who have died of it. And I told my brothers, who live nearby, that once classes begin, I will give them a 3 to 4 weeks period where I won’ visit them and see how that evolves. They have school-aged children, and you know how children get all sort of illnesses from school.
With Moncada’s situation, none of us really knows what is the right or wrong thing to do. We don’t have enough information on this disease and the after-effects. If he doesn’t want to play, or doesn’t feel able to, then he should go on the IL. Or, with the expanded rosters, we can keep him on the active roster, but if there’s a day where he’s very tired, then we can use someone else. That’s why Yolmer is on the roster. I’m sure Yoan and the team are consulting with doctors on the best course of action. I probably have been overly critical of him over his lack of production the past few weeks, so I guess we all have to realize that this is uncharted territory as far as injury/illness recovery goes.
As for Lopez, I hold out hope that sending him down will help clear his head and he can come back and contribute something positive this season. Whatever he was doing wasn’t working, but there’s no reason that has to be the case two weeks or so from now.
I understand the problems Moncada is going through but if they’re going to keep playing him at least bat him down in the order. Given his production, there’s no reason to bat him second.
Just gonna use this post to link an article on MLB.com about how good Robert has been in the field this year. Cause its always fun to read more about Luis.
I just read the article about La Pantera also. Very interesting. Me thinks he might be the next Clemente.