Mike Moustakas missed the first two games of the Cubs-Reds series because he was on the IL after reporting possible COVID-19 symptoms. After testing negative, he returned Wednesday night and played a big role in rocking Kyle Hendricks and the rest of the Cubs staff. The Reds second baseman was 1-for-2 with two walks, but his lone hit was a two-run homer to start the scoring in the bottom of the 4th.
Naturally, Kris Bryant thanked his opponent.
No, not for drawing first blood and helping to open up an eventual 9-0 lead. Bryant, who’s been outspoken about his trepidation stemming from Major League Baseball’s testing protocols and playing during a pandemic in general, told the media after the game that he gave the Reds star props for being honest about his symptoms and sitting out as a result.
“I told Moustakas out there, I know he was caught up in the protocol, and I thanked him, because that’s how we’re going to finish the season,” Bryant admitted.
Both Moustakas and center fielder Nick Senzel, who likewise homered in his return to the lineup after feeling sick Sunday morning, won their appeals to the league after being forced to sit because they self-reported. MLB’s guidelines require players who report symptoms to sit until they test negative, are symptom-free, and receive clearance from their team doctor.
The potential for missing multiple games is enough to have some players opting against full transparency when it comes to reporting the specifics of their health, especially when seasonal allergies could trigger any number of different symptoms. Under normal circumstances, no one would think twice about playing with a case of the sniffles or a little sneezing and wheezing. Now, however, those things could be indicative of something bigger.
But as we saw with the Marlins, who admitted that they never even considered the idea of calling off their game against the Phillies this past Sunday, this stuff can spread quickly. Now they’ve got 18 positive cases among on-field personnel and will miss at least a week of games. They could also lose their pay for those games, per the agreement under which the season is being played.
“It’s strange,” Bryant said. “Again, we haven’t been in this situation ever before as baseball players. You say you have the sniffles and you’re just looked down upon; you’re judged and stuff like that. If you wake up and you don’t feel great or whatever — anything — you have to check that box of the survey that we fill out every morning and you go from there.”
As Bryant reiterated, he was thankful that Moustakas was willing to set an example for how seriously players need to be taking these protocols. The league is reportedly enacting even stricter guidelines for masks and compliance, including the recommendation that players and staff remain in their team’s hotel on the road, but it will ultimately be the players who decide whether or not it all works.
Though it’s perhaps a bit of a stretch to relate this at all to Bryant’s performance, I have to wonder whether it could help him to shake loose from his early funk. The new dad just hasn’t looked comfortable at the plate thus far, but he roped a double to score two runs during Wednesday’s would-be rally and then pounded a liner that traveled 381 feet at 105 mph before landing in Senzel’s glove. He even turned a triple play, sort of.
Baseball is such a mental game and it’s easy to get caught up in your own negative thoughts, so maybe, just maybe, a little dose of positivity will do Bryant and the Cubs a lot of good.