Yesterday, my (very energetic) dog Henry and I had to play in the parking lot behind our place in the city, because we’re obviously not heading out to any dog parks right now. It’s far from the biggest problem facing humanity at the moment, but it also isn’t ideal – there’s not grass, there are cars, etc. It stinks. But we all must make the best with what we’ve got right now, including the Chicago Cubs.
Due to COVID-19, the Cubs spring training facility in Arizona is closed, but players – especially pitchers – still want to stay in throwing shape. So where are they going? Parks. Local parks. For real!
Kyle Hendricks, Colin Rea, Duane Underwood Jr. and others are meeting each other at empty parks in Arizona to get in their maintenance work: “Any place with open grass,” Rea said via the Des Moines Register. “There’s no traffic in the morning. It’s just weird. There’s no one on the roads.”
— Tommy Birch (@TommyBirch) March 27, 2020
Rea took some equipment from the Cubs weight room and brought that home to his garage. He also found some rubber balls, which he uses to throw against a cement wall. You know, big league training stuff: “For me, it’s stuff with my delivery where I can kind of keep working on that and keep fine-tuning it and using this time to take advantage of that ….”
Keeping in shape – particularly after ramping up once this year already – is also undoubtedly about warding off injury. We’ve already seen a flurry of Tommy John surgeries since the beginning of the hiatus, and when baseball starts to ramp up again, I wouldn’t be surprised to see even more injuries than usual, particularly from those who aren’t able to use this time away to keep their arms as healthy as possible. So good on Rea, Hendricks, et al. for staying in shape.
Yesterday, I wrote up and shared the first two episodes of “The Compound” podcast from Ian Happ, Zack Short, Dakota Mekkes, and Nico Hoerner, and alongside all the fun, the four-some did mention using their tennis throwing machine (also out in Arizona) to track down fly balls. I think Mekkes had also mentioned throwing to the other three, though it’s obviously a bit tougher without their full equipment and a bullpen-type setting.
Meanwhile, some teams are taking a systematic approach to this issue:
The Yankees started a Google Doc for tracking pitcher workouts. It keeps the players accountable, and lets them get ideas from one another. Jordan Montgomery, back home in South Carolina, is keeping an eye on the veteran starters. https://t.co/ztcPkas1Xs pic.twitter.com/KnBGmh7wmS
— Lindsey Adler (@lindseyadler) April 1, 2020
The Yankees have all sorts of different approaches to training:
Each player’s situation is different. Zack Britton, who lives in Austin, completed a pitching facility at his home this last offseason. Aroldis Chapman is training at his home gym, as you may have seen on Instagram. Masahiro Tanaka, Blake said, flew home to Japan with his family. There, he is subject to quarantine but has access to a facility after that. Luis Cessa ordered a net for his home in Arizona.
In South Carolina, Jordan Montgomery is playing catch and throwing off the mound on his high school field. Gerrit Cole is playing catch with manager Aaron Boone. Ottavino is meeting up with bullpen catcher Radley Haddad for long-toss sessions in his backyard, and intends to throw off a turf mound soon. (“It’s weird not giving him a fist bump when we finish,” Haddad said.)
It’s a pretty good idea to let guys train however they can, while sharing experiences/methods with their teammates. You never know which guy might say “Oh, yeah! I can totally do that from home.” And you never know which one of those workouts will prevent a major injury down the line.
Oh, and there’s also this kind of fun work: