Moncada back in camp after COVID recovery

July 17th, 2020

CHICAGO -- was one of the two White Sox players who tested positive for COVID-19, the third baseman told media members on Thursday night.

“Thank God I was asymptomatic for the most part. I am good now and healthy, and I’m just glad and happy to be back,” said Moncada through interpreter Billy Russo. “It was a difficult time for me.

“I wanted to be on the field. But I had to stay at home. I couldn’t leave my house the whole time.”

Moncada rejoined the team Thursday, taking part in pregame workouts that included batting practice and infield grounders. He tested positive during the intake process and has not been around his teammates since the start of Summer Camp on July 3. He has since had two negative tests at least 24 hours apart, and he was cleared by doctors two days ago to return.

Moncada's young daughter, wife and son were not with him while he quarantined in Chicago and are all healthy, so Moncada explained that part was not as difficult as could be expected. He lost his sense of taste and smell shortly after testing positive, but that symptom only lasted for a couple of days.

“When I got the results, it was a little scary. I didn’t know how this would affect me, what kind of symptoms I would develop,” Moncada said. “I thought the first time, this probably would take longer. But thank God all the symptoms and all the protocols were good, and it took less time than I suspected. But I always wanted to play this season and do whatever it takes to play this season.”

White Sox manager Rick Renteria, who also returned Thursday after passing the protocols following a trip to California for a family funeral, admits there are contingency plans in place in case Moncada is not ready to open the season on July 24 against the Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field. Renteria believes more will be known about Moncada in the next two to three days, when he can see how Moncada responds to the soreness from restarting workouts.

“I think that he's really going to do everything that he can to put himself in a good position to help us,” Renteria said. “We're going to be very mindful. Not perfect, but we have a lot of guys who are willing to step up and try to help mitigate where we're at with him.”

Although Moncada felt kind of weird being back on the field for the first time Thursday and getting used to all the safety measures, he also felt good physically. He planned to do some lateral explosive work with White Sox director of conditioning Allen Thomas later Thursday evening.

“I hope that I can be in the lineup next Friday,” Moncada said. “In the meantime, I just want to try to control what I can, and what I can control is keeping my routine and try to work hard every day and get ready for the season to start. I probably will have to work harder to get ready for next Friday, but that’s something that I can do, and I’m committed 100 percent to do whatever it takes to be ready when the season starts.”

“It looked like he hadn't skipped a beat from swinging the bat left-handed,” Renteria said. “Taking ground balls, he looked a little rusty, but when you've been down for a little bit, you have to try to slow it down. He was doing everything he could just to take some ground balls and get his feet underneath him. He'll do some more activities with [Thomas] and we'll see how he's doing [Friday].”

Moncada was not only one of the best players on the White Sox in 2019, he was arguably one of the best players in the American League. He slashed .315/.367/.548 last season, with 25 home runs, 34 doubles and 79 RBIs.

A healthy Moncada is integral for the White Sox, especially during a 60-game season, but Chicago won’t push him beyond what he’s ready to do. There’s also an understanding on Moncada’s part if teammates have initial uncertainty about being around him.

“I understand if they feel afraid or if they have any doubt just about being around me, because I know that's something to be scared about,” Moncada said. “But I don't feel scared; I don't feel afraid. I don't have any doubt to be around them. I feel good. I know I'm healthy.”

“Everybody's excited that he's back. He's very excited to be back,” Renteria said. “All of us as a staff are excited to have him back. I don't want to get beyond my excitement and put him in a position that puts him back, so we're going to be very mindful of how we move forward. But we're very excited to have him back. A big, big piece of the puzzle.”