CHICAGO -- Hunter Strickland called it “a good situation for a bad situation,” and that sounded about right.
Strickland and fellow Brewers reliever Jake Cousins were both back on the active roster for Tuesday’s day-night doubleheader against the Cubs after recovering from COVID-19 together at Strickland’s property in rural Georgia. With their return, four of the nine Brewers sidelined either by a positive test or because of contact tracing were back in action.
Strickland and Cousins came down with symptoms during the Brewers' July 30-Aug. 1 series in Atlanta, about 70 miles north of Strickland’s new home in Meansville, Ga. So the duo spent their quarantine there -- Strickland in a guest room away from his family, and Cousins in a camper that the Stricklands use as their home base during Spring Training.
“I had my own setup," Cousins said. "I had a chair outside where I would go out in the morning and read. He’s got 200 acres. It was beautiful Georgia country.”
A mile away, Strickland had outfitted a warehouse with everything he needs to train in the offseason, including dirt mounds and Rapsodo tracking devices. The pair did their throwing there and returned to active duty this week essentially without skipping a beat.
Strickland came back with a 1.76 ERA in his first 14 appearances for the Brewers, who picked him up from the Angels in early June. Cousins had yet to be charged with an earned run in his first 13 appearances for the Brewers.
“Our ambitions are the same,” Strickland said. “We understand the situation we’re in, and to push through it together was definitely a positive.”
“The only thing that changed is that we didn't get game reps,” Cousins said. “We didn't get to throw to a catcher, we just threw into a net. But I mean, just keeping your arm in shape was huge, and being able to see your pitches and throw to Hunter and have him give feedback and everything. We would run after we throw. I mean, just like what we normally do before a game. So yeah, we're hoping to not have to skip a beat and just be able to come back and keep rolling.”
Strickland had the tougher time with the coronavirus. His symptoms started with a fever and body aches. He lost his senses of taste and smell and still doesn’t have them back. He developed bad head congestion and completely lost hearing in his left ear; that was still problematic as he returned to action. Cousins, meanwhile, had symptoms that resembled a sinus infection.
Both players were vaccinated against COVID-19, the club said previously.
“Who knows what my symptoms would have been like if I wasn't vaccinated?” Cousins said. “I'm assuming that's the reason why I had a stuffy nose and that's it.”
For Cousins, a cousin of Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, the timing of his return was perfect. He was born in Park Ridge, Ill., a northern suburb of Chicago.
“Driving on the bus yesterday, just seeing the whole front of Wrigley Field and everything, and coming in as a player is really cool,” Cousins said. “I mean, this is the place I grew up coming to. It's going to be fun. I'm excited to be here and get to watch the top of the first inning in the dugout and just kind of take it in, and then after that, it's all back to business.”