David Ross returns to the Chicago Cubs dugout with a new perspective after watching games on TV during his COVID-19 quarantine: ‘Probably not to scream as much on borderline pitches that were balls’

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David Ross’ time away from the Chicago Cubs finally ended Sunday, his days of remotely managing the team over.

He tried to enjoy the downtime, filling some of the hours watching college football, but he inevitably counted down the days until he could rejoin the Cubs. Ross, wearing his appropriate ”MANAGER.” T-shirt before Sunday’s game, had been quarantined in his home since Sept. 3, forcing him to miss eight games after he and president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer tested positive for COVID-19.

Ross, who is vaccinated, felt grateful and lucky he was asymptomatic throughout his isolation period.

“The ups and downs of it are what fuel you and the passion,” Ross said. “I miss these guys. Being a part of a team, it feels good. Being home by yourself, I realize I don’t like myself that much, so it’s just a lot of appreciation and you feel thankful that you have a job and come to work every day in front of thousands of people.”

Although he was away from Wrigley Field, Ross still set the daily lineup and was in constant communication before and after games with bench coach and acting manager Andy Green and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy. The vantage point from watching the games on TV gave him different insight too.

“Probably not to scream as much on borderline pitches that were balls,” Ross said, laughing, before Sunday’s 6-5 loss to the San Francisco Giants.

Green joked Saturday about the Cubs’ success with him at the helm being added to his managerial record. Their 5-3 mark during Ross’ absence officially will be attributed to Ross.

“My record needs a lot of help, no doubt about that,” Green said wryly of his 274-366 record (.428 winning percentage) in four seasons leading the San Diego Padres. “So I don’t know if I can petition MLB to have these wins transferred over to my resume.”

Ross, amused by Green getting ejected in the first game after he took over, appreciated the Cubs coaching staff stepping up while he was away.

“I told him ... What’s going on? I thought you wanted to manage? You didn’t want to manage that bad,” a smiling Ross said. “I think you guys saw a glimpse of what I see on a daily basis and the passion he has for baseball and the players on this team. He wants to win and that’s evident.”

The Cubs, one of seven teams that have not reached the 85% vaccinated threshold for Tier 1 personnel, were fortunate they did not experience a COVID-19 outbreak stemming from Ross’ and Hoyer’s positive tests. The Boston Red Sox, who also are beneath the threshold, have not been as fortunate as left-hander Chris Sale was the latest to be sidelined after testing positive Friday.

“You’re on pins and needles and you just can’t wait for the trainers to text you everybody’s negative, to be honest,” Ross said. “And they’re going through multiple tests as I had to go through, so you’re just waiting to hear the first one before the game and then you wait until the night for the other ones to come back. That’s the miserable part of it.

“For me, that was probably one of the harder parts is just feeling like you put the whole organization at risk where guys could sit.”

Watching the games on TV wasn’t all bad. He gained a different perspective. Ross saw how the ball came out of his pitchers’ hands and how teams attacked Cubs hitters.

Of course, some nuance is lost when forced to watch only what TV cameras capture and broadcasts choose to show. For players who are scuffling, Ross noted how it’s difficult to discern frustration on TV, making it important to talk to coaches to see where a player’s head is. It’s part of the information that can be valuable when putting together the lineup for each game.

“Not seeing their real body language, feeling that energy, you’re kind of lost in some of that stuff,” Ross said.

Ross kept his binder that he studies for each game by his side as he watched the broadcasts. Although he jotted down a few notes, he typically would text a coach directly — “Hey, let’s put this on video” — when something caught his attention, namely things he wanted to “get off his brain right away.”

Ross’ baseball watching extended beyond the Cubs, taking stuff from other teams and games that he would relay to Green.

Despite being relegated to his home, Ross appreciated the glimpses into the Cubs dugout. When he’s on the bench managing the game, he can miss the minutiae.

“You don’t see what’s going on, the interactions and the smiles, and you’re really focused on so many different other things and trying to be ahead of the game, where I was able to be in a moment as a fan,” Ross said. “It felt like this in the dugout, like we’re never out of the game, and it felt like that on TV too. These guys continue to fight, the character of the group continues to show through. When they’re in it, they’re fighting until the end.”

That fight was again on display Sunday with Ross back in the dugout.

Twice the Cubs fell behind by three against the best team in baseball but managed to chip away at the lead. The Giants own the best record for a reason, however, and snuffed out the Cubs’ comeback attempt.

After striking for two runs in the seventh, the Cubs left the bases loaded against reliever Tyler Rogers, who struck out Willson Contreras looking and Alfonso Rivas swinging on full-count pitches to end the inning. The Cubs again had a chance in the ninth thanks to Patrick Wisdom’s pinch-hit double with one out, but Frank Schwindel and Ian Happ grounded out against closer Jake McGee.

The loss handed the Cubs a three-game sweep after a stretch in which they won nine of 11 games.