As he prepares his team for a return to the playing field, St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Shildt is defending his players over any narrative that they did something "egregious" to cause the COVID-19 outbreak that has sidelined them since July 29.
"What I can tell you, with confidence, is it would be very irresponsible and a misstep to say this group went out and did anything that was egregious," Shildt said Friday evening. "To say something otherwise, would be inaccurate. Strongly inaccurate."
Shildt admits his team made smaller mistakes that led them twice to being quarantined, but he's confident there won't be any more starts and stops based on their behavior.
"We will be even more prudent with every regulation that is out there," he said. "I don't think you'll have anyone touch anyone on the field the rest of this year. Our dugouts will be even more sterile. We're going to show up later. Every meeting will be outside. It's going to be very little time spent in the ballpark.
"I can confidently tell you there was no cavalier approach to this before this happened."
The Cardinals will play three doubleheaders in Chicago in the coming days as they begin to play catch-up on their schedule. They've played just five games this season.
"You could say it's a fourth chance," Shildt said. "Spring training, summer camp, an initial quarantine, then another one."
Out of an abundance of caution -- and to keep their distance -- each healthy player and staff member drove a rental car from St. Louis to Chicago on Friday.
The Cardinals will play the White Sox and then the Cubs over the next week, with doubleheaders scheduled for Saturday, Monday and Wednesday. To prepare, Shildt said players had individualized workouts beginning on Tuesday of this week but no one who tested positive for COVID-19 has been cleared to play again.
In all, 10 players and eight staff members tested positive. It forced the team to call up players from their alternate training site in Springfield, including top prospect Dylan Carlson. He'll be in the starting lineup on Saturday. They also reworked their coaching staff by bringing back fan favorite Jose Oquendo to coach third base.
"This is history and we're going to do our best to learn from others but candidly we're making it right now," Shildt stated.
The Cardinals will mix their regular starters in with bullpen days as Adam Wainwright will pitch in Game 1 on Saturday with several relievers taking the ball in Game 2. Dakota Hudson and Kwang-Hyun Kim will get their turns before ace Jack Flaherty sees action on Wednesday for the first time since Opening Day.
Near the end of a long video call with Shildt from his hotel room in Chicago, he was asked if there was ever a moment he thought the Cardinals would not play baseball again this year. "Full disclosure, I had two minute internal dialogue about it and shut it out," he said.