At the end of his pregame Zoom session with the media on Saturday morning, Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak leaned back in his chair and lifted his leg to show off his red Converse.
“Got the red shoes on today,” Mozeliak said.
Mozeliak’s relief was visible as he fielded questions before the Cardinals resumed their schedule on Saturday against the White Sox, 17 days after they last played a game. Those 17 days were filled with worry about the health and safety of the 18 members of the Cardinals -- 10 players and eight staffers -- who tested positive for COVID-19, worry about the health and safety of everyone else in the organization going through daily testing and quarantining as the outbreak continued, and worry about the Cardinals season -- what it would look like and how it would resume.
Late Friday night, Mozeliak received word that the Cardinals, who traveled to Chicago in individual rental cars, had been cleared to play, and Saturday’s doubleheader at Guaranteed Rate Field could commence as scheduled.
“Just getting back to the field, that’s really all I’ve been trying to deal with,” Mozeliak said. “And look, today we get to hopefully put two games up on our standings, whether it’s in the win column or in the loss column. Either way, I’m probably going to smile.”
Although the coronavirus pandemic is going to be on everyone's mind as the Cardinals resume play, Mozeliak said the big test is now the on-field issues. Hitters haven’t faced live pitching since their last game, on July 29 in Minneapolis. Pitchers haven’t thrown an inning outside of bullpen sessions. Health will be at the forefront of minds as play begins.
Including Saturday's, the Cardinals have 11 doubleheaders scheduled for the remainder of the season. Mozeliak said that having a 29-man roster for the seven-inning twin bills is going to help manage the health concerns.
“Do I think it’s doable? Yes,” Mozeliak said. “Do I think it’s daunting? Yes. Am I glad we get the opportunity to do it? Yes.”
The Cardinals made official on Saturday what Mozeliak announced on Thursday by selecting the contract of top prospect Dylan Carlson, as well as those of first baseman John Nogowski, right-hander Seth Elledge and left-hander Rob Kaminsky. They also recalled lefty Ricardo Sánchez as the 29th man for Saturday’s doubleheader.
Carlson, who will wear No. 3, drew the start in left field for Saturday’s first game.
Right-handers Nabil Crismatt, Ryan Meisinger and Jesús Cruz joined catcher José Godoy on the taxi squad in Chicago.
The Cardinals also placed left-hander Austin Gomber on the injured list, even though he has not tested positive for COVID-19. Gomber was identified as at risk for being exposed, so the Cardinals wanted to be cautious. Gomber was cleared to work out at Busch Stadium on Friday and will spend the next few days in St. Louis throwing to get ready to join the team at some point in Chicago over the next five days.
Gomber joins Yadier Molina, Paul DeJong, Rangel Ravelo, Edmundo Sosa, Kodi Whitley, Junior Fernández, Carlos Martínez, Austin Dean, Ryan Helsley and Lane Thomas on the IL.
The return-to-playing process has begun for some of the players who tested positive for COVID-19 during the Cardinals' break from games, though Mozeliak did not disclose the names of those involved. Players who test positive have to wait a minimum of seven days to be tested again, so those who tested positive in Milwaukee began testing again this past Sunday. They must have two negative tests at least 24 hours apart to begin the other exams included in the process, including a physical, cardiac exams and bloodwork, Mozeliak said.
After they’re cleared on those, they can go to Busch Stadium and work out with light running, throwing and playing catch. Then they will likely be sent to the alternate training site in Springfield, Mo., for a few days for live at-bats and bullpen sessions.
“I would think that would be a bit ambitious to get anybody back [in Chicago],” Mozeliak said. “It’s all gonna depend on how people react. But based on what I just told you, mathematically getting somebody up there to Chicago would be very unlikely.”