With spring training on hold due to the COVID-19 emergency, a “fairly significant number” of Cubs players will remain in Arizona to train, Theo Epstein said on Friday.
“We don’t have final word yet on all the players, but it seems that for now a number of players from major league camp are interested in sticking around and using the facility for weight room activity and some light baseball activity,” Epstein said in a conference call.
MLB announced Friday the indefinite suspension of all formal spring training activities due to the coronavirus. The decision left players with the option to return home or remain in Arizona — the Cubs encouraging the former.
David Ross and most of his coaching staff will go home. A few minor league coaches will stay behind, in addition to the big league coaches who reside in Arizona. Epstein, GM Jed Hoyer and the remaining few front office personnel will hang back until all player transitions are finalized.
In accordance with public health guidelines, the Cubs will manage how many people are at the facility at one time. Any activity in Arizona is optional, though they’re encouraging all players, home or not, to stay in shape.
Epstein said with leases expiring, he anticipates the number of players in Arizona to dwindle as we get deeper into March.
“For now, we expect to have a fairly significant number of players to be here,” he said. “They’ve expressed that wish.”
What comes after is anyone’s guess.
Thursday, MLB postponed Opening Day until April 9, which seems optimistic considering the circumstances around the coronavirus. Before going on hiatus, the Cubs didn’t let any symptomatic players travel. They’ll conduct daily check-ins and give medical advice from afar and likely institute a medical protocol to ensure members of the organization are healthy, whenever spring training resumes.
The Cubs’ Arizona facility underwent a deep cleaning on Friday. Their Wrigley Field weight room, currently under renovation, will be ready in about a week. If/when players opt to train in Chicago, a similar cleaning will be necessary prior to Opening Day.
In a pure baseball sense, two weeks’ worth of preseason games have yet to be played. Those contests don’t all have to happen, but players aren’t going to go from sitting at home to playing meaningful games.
Epstein alluded to the notion that the longer spring training is on a hiatus, the more time players will need to prepare.
“With the reality that teams would need probably three to four weeks of working out together to get ready for a season,” he said, “I think you can draw your own reasonable conclusions about when Opening Day is, or how realistic any type of early April Opening Day is.”
Most importantly, there will be no baseball until the coronavirus is contained. Societal health takes far greater precedence, and after a tumultuous 72 hours, Epstein cared not to reflect on his own emotions.
"I think at the end of the day all of us have a moment before you put your head on the pillow where you realize just how much has changed," he said, "and just what we're all dealing with and the potential consequences for society as a whole if we don't pull together and handle this in the best possible way.
"So we're all in this together. I think it's all time for us to make collective sacrifices, to have each others back and to try to minimize the suffering and to try to eventually return to normal as quickly as possible. But it probably won't be until we're all somewhat back to normal before we can put it in proper perspective and fully process it."Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.