The Cubs had a front-row seat to the Reds' tussle with health and safety protocols this week.
Still, Cubs manager David Ross dismissed the notion that players might be hesitant to self-report symptoms after witnessing the ordeal Cincinnati's Mike Moustakas and Nick Senzel went through to return to the field.
"We're dealing with serious issues here," Ross said. "And I think everybody to a man in our group is all bought in on, this is a real issue."
Moustakas and Senzel told their team's medical staff that they felt ill on Sunday. They reportedly tested negative for COVID-19 and stopped showing symptoms but remained unavailable. Moustakas and Senzel appealed their league-mandated absences, according to The Athletic, before finally returning to the Reds' lineup on Wednesday. By then, the Cubs had already taken a 2-0 lead in the four-game series.
"It's strange," Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant said. "We haven't been in this situation ever before as baseball players. You say you have the sniffles and you're just looked down upon; you're judged and stuff like that."
Bryant said he thanked Moustakas on Wednesday for reporting his symptoms.
"I respect everybody who says that they have something," Bryant said, "I completely respect them, because they're going to be the ones who help us finish the season."
At first, news that Moustakas and Senzel had reported possible COVID-19 symptoms added another reason for the Cubs to feel uneasy about their first road trip. Reds infielder Matt Davidson had recently tested positive for COVID-19.
The Cubs' travel day Monday was already "surreal," as Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy put it. The team flew out the morning of the first game of the series. Same-day travel is rare in the major leagues but will become more common this season.
At the same time, news of a COVID-19 outbreak among the Marlins was circulating. By the end of the day, Miami's games through Sunday would be postponed and the growing count of positive COVID-19 tests among the traveling party would reportedly climb to 17.
"It was an uneasy morning," Hottovy recalled Wednesday. "It's our first time out of the bubble, we get to our hotel, we get to the field and get ready, and then there's a rain delay. It was just a long, long day and a lot to process. I think there were a lot of guys that were worried that this is where we're heading.
"It was good to sleep on that Monday night after a good win and re-process everything yesterday. And reassure ourselves, we can only control what we can control. And what we're doing is what we feel is the best, and we're being smart, and we're all in this together."
One thing the Cubs can control is their diligence in reporting symptoms.
After the Cubs arrived in the Queen City, the understanding of the Reds' situation changed. But the Cubs' track record this season gave Ross no reason to believe that his players' attitudes would.
Hottovy, who battled COVID-19 for a month during the MLB shutdown, can attest to the fact that even strict precautions don't eliminate the risk of contracting the virus. But it's still notable that no Cubs player has tested positive for COVID-19.
That's even after having their own "protocol technicalities," as Ross put it. Kyle Ryan was delayed in reporting to Summer Camp. The Cubs declined to go into detail regarding the process-based delay.
The Cubs' Wrigley Field bubble has been effective for more than three weeks. Players and coaches alike have commended each other for taking the virus seriously. Pitcher Yu Darvish was among them, saying he'd planned to leave if that hadn't been the case.
Even so, outfielder Steven Souza Jr. called the Marlins' outbreak a "wakeup call."
Souza said his sister-in-law, who works at the Mayo Clinic, is on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. He estimates that he talks to her almost every other day.
"She's seen the people that are symptomatic and how dangerous some of this stuff can be," Souza said. "I just try and encourage her to remain strong and don't fear because I know there's a lot of nurses that are scared, and they're fighting through that fear to take care of these people.
"And so, the least I can do and the least we can do is follow these safety protocols so we can bring some peace of mind and some hope to the American country through sports, which we all love to watch."
That stance isn't likely to change just because of a couple protocol snafus. In the context of a pandemic, an extra day or two out of the lineup doesn't qualify as a "serious issue."
Reds' COVID-19 protocol appeal: David Ross isn't worried about effect on Cubs originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago