D-backs return to play at Chase Field during COVID-19 pandemic
PHOENIX – This is not a drill. For the first time in 281 days, the Arizona Diamondbacks played baseball at Chase Field on Monday evening as they prepare for the start of the 60-game MLB season on July 24 against the San Diego Padres.
In front of a masked smattering of media, D-backs front office staff and coaches, the team played a three-and-a-half-inning intrasquad game with pitchers Archie Bradley, Zac Gallen, James Sherfy and Riley Smith taking the mound.
Bradley looked dominant in his inning of work, striking out three in a four-out inning. Ketel Marte also looked like he was in midseason mode, going 2-for-2 at the dish with a double and a two-RBI home run.
But despite MLB’s safety protocols and the joy of being back at the ballpark, the uncertainty of the league’s precautions to play during the COVID-19 pandemic was at the forefront of the discussions on Monday.
Manager Torey Lovullo revealed after the scrimmage that one of the newest D-backs players, outfielder Kole Calhoun, has tested positive for the coronavirus. Calhoun has been noticeably absent from summer camp over the past few days.
“I know that you guys are situationally aware of what’s going on,” said Lovullo. “Kole Calhoun has tested positive and is feeling great, it’s asymptomatic.”
Calhoun was acquired by the D-backs in the offseason after hitting .232 with 33 home runs and 74 RBIs for the Los Angeles Angels in 2019.
“I feel strongly that Kole is going to be OK and he’s gonna join us and not skip a beat.”
Outfielder David Peralta, who went 2-for-3 with a solo home run and a single, revealed he was unable to practice with the team until Monday due to showing symptoms of the virus. The 32-year old outfielder had to have a total of four negative tests before being allowed to join his team.
“I was kind of sick, and I didn’t want to put at risk all of teammates, so they were taking tests and everything,” he explained. “It was negative, but I just got cleared. Which is good because I’m happy to be back.”
Zac Gallen discussed going through the COVID-19 testing protocol after the game, which involved the players doing a dry run in their cars in the parking lot of Chase Field a couple of days before summer camp started.
“I think it’s just one of those things you have to get used to,” he stated, adding the testing process wasn’t difficult. “It’s that saliva test, so it’s not as invasive. But it’s pretty easy. You come in, you get your temperature checked, do your saliva, and you’re good to go.”
Gallen, who admitted he spent his time off playing a lot of golf, decided to stay in Arizona during the offseason instead of returning to his home in New Jersey.
“New Jersey is home for me, but New Jersey was kind of crazy on lockdown and what not. I hadn’t had any testing, so I didn’t really want to go home with the possibility that I possibly had symptoms or whatever it might be. So, I just figured stay out here, just make it easier for when there’s a decision to be made. I didn’t have to worry about traveling or anything like that.”
There’s still a long road ahead for MLB in regards to safety at the ballpark as we navigate through uncharted waters for both sports and our society.