After the Giants finished their nine-game road trip Sunday, manager Gabe Kapler was asked how he felt about the club’s pitching.
“I feel like we have a healthy starting rotation,” Kapler said, “And that’s pretty important right now.”
That all changed within a few hours.
The Giants got back to Oracle Park on Monday afternoon and immediately found themselves scrambling. Left-hander Alex Wood tested positive for COVID-19 and right-hander Johnny Cueto felt sick enough that he was scratched from his scheduled start, although he did test negative.
The veterans were supposed to start the first two games of this series against the Milwaukee Brewers and the final two against the Los Angeles Dodgers over the weekend. That won’t be happening for Wood, who joins Donovan Solano as Giants who have tested positive for the virus.
This is the reality for the whole world right now, and has been for well over a year, but this is still something new for the Giants. They did not have a positive test all of last season and had pretty much gone back to normal for most of this season, as they went nearly five months without a scare.
That changed last week in New York when Solano tested positive. Wood joined him Monday.
“I think it’s a real concern,” Kapler said. “That doesn’t make us unique in any way. We know that a lot of clubs have dealt with the virus and dealt with it successfully. I also am confident that there are other clubs that are dealing with similar circumstances and challenges now. We’re just going to do our best under the circumstances.
“We’ve done a really good job this season of adapting and adjusting. I don’t see this as anything other than a real challenge that is certainly a concern but also something that we’re capable of navigating.”
The Giants need only to look across the field this series to get a reminder of how often this has been a problem within the sport. When they visited the Brewers a few weeks ago, the team was dealing with an outbreak that took Christian Yelich, Josh Hader and others off the field.
The hope within Kapler’s clubhouse is that this is an isolated incident, although hope is not a strategy, and there were clear signs Monday that the team is being more careful. Coaches who emerged from the clubhouse had masks on and some players did, as well. Kapler, who work a mask while addressing the media, said he met with his staff and they decided to return to wearing them while indoors. He planned to meet with the entire team after batting practice to reinforce some protocols.
“We’re a pretty diligent group and we have been for the better part of two seasons,” he said. “After Donovan’s positive test we all have kind of ramped up the sensitivity level. Last night on the plane and the bus there were a lot of masks on.”
The Giants were among the first teams to reach MLB’s 85 percent vaccination threshold, doing so May 13. That allowed them to loosen restrictions around the ballpark and as they traveled, but Kapler said the group has continued to be diligent. Several players in recent weeks have gotten booster shots, missing games as they recovered.
“We are a very vaccinated group,” Kapler said. “I feel like, while we’re at risk and exposed just like every other club and just like the general population, I think we’re pretty good about taking care of this group and doing the right thing in the city and making good decisions to the best of our ability. We’re far from perfect and everybody makes mistakes but I think we’re a pretty diligent group.”
That diligence has gotten them this far without any issues, and Kapler sounded calm and confident as he spoke for more than 10 minutes about the situation on Monday. The Giants will go day-by-day with their rotation and remain hopeful that Cueto continues to test negative and feels good enough that he can start Tuesday’s game instead.
The path will be much different for Solano and Wood. Solano remains in a New York hotel room, working out alone and trying to find ways to get healthy meals. Kapler said that first bit of COVID news was tough because Solano, who is vaccinated, has worn his mask as often as any Giant over the last couple of seasons.
There were fewer details about Wood and Cueto, as Kapler wanted to speak to his players before releasing any more information. Both players feel pretty bad physically, he said, and Wood is particularly upset about a positive test that will knock him out for an undetermined period of time.
“He’s really broken up, he’s really upset,” Kapler said. “He’s having an awesome season and is very disappointed that that season is going to be interrupted for a bit.”