White Sox

White Sox trust MLB protocol as positive COVID-19 tests, player concerns grow

White Sox trust MLB protocol as positive COVID-19 tests, player concerns grow

The White Sox are going by the book.

And while that book is unproven in its effectiveness to this point, the White Sox — and the other 29 teams around Major League Baseball — are trusting that it will keep players safe and allow the 2020 season to happen in the middle of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The White Sox announced Sunday that two players tested positive for COVID-19 during the team's intake period prior to the beginning of "Summer Camp" workouts on the South Side. They're handling the situation according to the league's extensive health and safety protocol, which dictates that the players be isolated and monitored and that they must test negative twice before they can return to work. Also according to the protocol, as well as existing laws, the players will not be named, as they requested privacy.

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It's not that no one saw this coming, with manager Rick Renteria saying just a day earlier that he'd be "foolish" to suggest infections wouldn't happen. But certainly the White Sox hoped they wouldn't be on the list of teams with players who tested positive.

Their plan of attack from here on out? Stick to the letter of the law.

"The testing is done. It obviously works," Renteria said Sunday. "They were identified. And the appropriate measures are being taken to continue to monitor and make sure they are, first of all, feeling healthy and clear of any effects of it, and then they will continue to be tested till they are negative and able to come back to us. Again, it was more in the pre-entry (testing), so everything that was supposed to be done before guys got here was done. And so it works. The testing is working."

As news of positive tests comes in from around the league — like the four Atlanta Braves whose positive tests were revealed Saturday, a group that included All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman — certain players continue to evaluate whether they want to play this season or whether they'd rather avoid the health risks and opt out. Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher David Price became the biggest name yet to opt out when he did so Saturday. The names could get bigger, though, with Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, the game's best player, and San Francisco Giants star catcher Buster Posey still weighing their options.

Other players are wondering if it's a good idea or even possible to play the season at all.

Meanwhile, Washington Nationals relief pitcher Sean Doolittle, asked if he thought there would be fans in the stands this season, took a big-picture approach to describing how baseball and other sports fit into the United States' response to the pandemic, telling reporters:

"We're trying to bring baseball back during a pandemic that's killed 130,000 people. We're way worse off as a country than we were in March when we shut (the sport) down. And look at where other developed countries are in their response to this. We haven't done any of the things that other countries have done to bring sports back.

"Sports are like the reward of a functioning society, and we're just trying to bring it back, even though we've taken none of the steps. ... We can't just have virus fatigue and keep thinking, 'Well, it's been four months, we're over it, this has been enough time, right? We've waited long enough, shouldn't sports come back now?' No, there are things we have to do in order to bring this stuff back."

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Players around the league are obviously and understandably anxious over the idea of playing during a pandemic, with the virus now known to be affecting their fellow players and, in some cases, their teammates.

According to Renteria, though, no White Sox players have spoken with him about potentially opting out. The skipper reported Sunday that he believes his players are feeling comfortable back on the field, even while the numbers around the country are as worrisome as they've been.

"I haven’t had (a conversation about opting out) and neither has anyone approached me about any of that in regards to the coronavirus," Renteria said. "Everyone has to make their own assessment and take the decisions they make seriously and everybody has to respect them. This thing that’s going around, as much as it's maybe been downplayed a lot, it affects a lot of people. ... We’re doing everything we can to minimize it, and I haven’t had any conversations with anybody in regards to opting out because of it.

"You subtlety continue to remind (the players) of the measures we need to take in order to minimize potential infection. But they look very comfortable. The level of comfort probably comes because they believe they are doing what they're supposed to do to minimize it. ... I think they're feeling a little more comfortable with it, knowing that we're still trying to be very mindful and they're actually following those measures of protocol that allow us to hopefully mitigate any chances of it getting us.

"There's no guarantee, man. But we're doing everything we can to minimize it."

While Doolittle brought up additional concerns to reporters, saying his team hasn't received personal protective equipment and that some players are working out while waiting on the results of their tests, it seems that Major League Baseball is taking seriously the health and safety element of trying to get this season off the ground. The measures are numerous and in many cases quite strict. Ballparks have been significantly reconfigured to allow for safe, socially distant workouts. Coaches wear masks on the field during workouts. Pitchers bring their own balls to their bullpen sessions. And there are hand-sanitization stations everywhere.

But in the end, the biggest mystery is what happens when players are away from major league ballparks. The responsibility lies with them to be smart about their movement at home and on the road. It's up to them to avoid situations where they could expose themselves — and by extension, their teammates and coaches — to the virus. The White Sox are confident their players will act responsibly, with certain ones even stating that their plan is to go home from the ballpark and play video games while waiting for the next day's work.

Renteria has on multiple occasions used his platform to encourage the public to engage in similarly responsible behavior, and he did that again Sunday.

"Honestly, you guys see me with a mask on now. I think that even throughout the whole time that we've been down, I know I've encouraged my family and friends to be mindful. And because I am doing so, I think I'm doing everything I can to minimize the chances of it occurring to us. It doesn't guarantee it, but I do not take it lightly," Renteria said. "There are things that lead you to understand that this is real, so I take it seriously. This is not for any of us, whether you're a child or an adult, this is not something to be taken lightly.

"I hope that we continue to do what we can for each other. I do look at it as a responsibility to take care of my fellow man by doing my part. ... Just do what's right by each other. We're here to serve each other, and that's all I've got to say on that."


Ozzie Guillén hates Nick Swisher, with his whole heart

Ozzie Guillén hates Nick Swisher, with his whole heart

If you didn't know, Ozzie Guillén has strong opinions and that includes former players he dealt with.

On the White Sox post-game show, host Chuck Garfien asked Guillén who he disliked more, Carlos Gomez or Nick Swisher.

"Oh my God, nobody can compare that with Nick Swisher," Guillén responded. "I hate Nick Swisher with my heart."

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Guillén declined to elaborate, but then added: "I think he hates me back, there's nothing wrong with that."

And finally Ozzie gave some kind of reason.

"I never talked to him, I was managing him, but I don't like the way his attitude was all fake. And I don't like fake people."

Then Chuck pointed out Swisher was only with the White Sox for one year and Guillén had thoughts about that to.

"It was one year too long," Guillén said.

Guillén doubled down and said he thinks others players would agree if they were honest, while clarifying he didn't hate him as a person and thought he was a good player.

The White Sox way wasn't the Swisher way, and there was friction.

Ozzie also admitted he might of misused Swisher.

"I played him center field and batting first or second, that guy has to be in right field batting tenth."


White Sox end streak, stay confident: 'We are going to do the pushing around'

White Sox end streak, stay confident: 'We are going to do the pushing around'

The White Sox winning streak is over.

So why was Danny Mendick so chipper after a 1-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday night?

His three hits might have had something to do with it. He was just about the only offense the White Sox mustered against Adrian Houser and a pair of relievers.

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But it seemed to stem more from the different feeling surrounding this year's White Sox team.

Mendick got a taste, however small, of the rebuilding years at the tail end of the 2019 season. After Yoán Moncada and Tim Anderson and Lucas Giolito and Eloy Jiménez broke out the way they did during that campaign, Rick Hahn's front office complemented them with a host of impact veteran additions during the offseason. Throw it all together, and these White Sox have the look of a potential contender, something backed up by the way they played during their six-game win streak.

That's over now, though Wednesday's game had the same kind of playoff feel that the first two games against the Brewers did on Monday and Tuesday nights. The White Sox might not have played any games that felt like these in the last three years. Now there have been three in three nights.

So yeah, something's changed.

"I’ll tell you what, just the energy in the clubhouse," Mendick said Wednesday, asked about the difference between 2019 and 2020. "When we show up to the field, there’s more confidence.

"It’s not like we are going to get pushed around. It’s more like we are going to do the pushing around.

"Everyone is just prepared. Everyone shows up to the field ready. They know the opponent. We know what they are going to bring. I feel there’s just more, how do I say this, more education. We have more veterans. We have guys who are really focused on baseball, and it brings a lot to everybody."

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The six-game win streak turned the White Sox slow 1-4 start around in a hurry. In this shortened, 60-game season, every game means so much and even modest winning or losing streaks could tug the entire season in one direction or the other. The White Sox went from getting their brains beat in by the class of the AL Central to the third best record in the American League as of Wednesday morning.

They've showed what they're capable of, too. They blew out the Kansas City Royals, scoring a combined 20 runs and knocking out a total of 35 hits in back-to-back wins last weekend. Then they went to Milwaukee and won a pair of nail-biters, getting clutch hits from José Abreu and Jiménez to back strong efforts by the bullpen Monday and Giolito on Tuesday.

Wednesday, it was one of those newly arrived veterans, Dallas Keuchel, who shone. He logged seven one-run innings, the first White Sox starter to pitch in the seventh inning this season. If it weren't for the unusually cool conditions on the South Side, the outcome might have been different. Luis Robert and Moncada dialed up back-to-back deep fly balls in the eighth inning that both could have easily gone as go-ahead homers on a normal summer night.

The clutch hits could have kept on coming. And the knowledge of being competitive — the "belief," as Giolito keeps putting it — prevented the White Sox from feeling down after another fine effort Wednesday. It will likely do so every night for the remainder of this short season.

"The thing that probably has impressed me the most is the resiliency of the club," Hahn said Wednesday. "Obviously, those of us who have watched this team over the last several years, and certainly in the early phase of the rebuild, knew that feeling that you would get early or midway through games where you would feel the lead was perhaps insurmountable. I think looking at this club through the first 10 or 11 games so far, it feels like we're not out of any ballgame, regardless of what the deficit may be.

"I think that's a great testament to not just the veterans that have been brought in, but the growth of the young guys and the mentality I'm sure you've all picked up on going back to (spring training in) Glendale."

Part of the reason additions like Keuchel, Yasmani Grandal and Edwin Encarnación looked so good during the winter was the playoff experience these guys have. While the White Sox core doesn't know what it's like to win at the big league level — not even Abreu does, who played for six losing White Sox teams before signing a new multi-year deal in the offseason — these guys do. They're all veterans of pennant races and playoff runs that go all the way to the end of October. Keuchel's got a World Series ring on his resume.

Experience with the highs and lows of a winning season might not be quite as valuable in this most unusual of seasons. But before the White Sox can be championship contenders, they actually need to do some winning. After a combined 284 losses in the last three seasons, even a six-game winning streak can mean a lot.

But whether they won or lost Wednesday, it didn't seem like the result was going to sway their belief. These White Sox are here to compete and live up to the high expectations they set for themselves dating all the way back to the end of an 89-loss season in 2019.

"We've been hot, and eventually it's going to come to an end. But man, we were right in the ballgame. That's all we can ask for," Keuchel said. "Game in, game out, we know that we're going to be in those contests.

"If we can win series, that's a playoff recipe."