White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper is waiting for his phone to buzz.
Just in case.
Cooper, 64, who is home in April for the first time in 42 years, is doing the same things you and I are doing — or mostly not doing — waiting out the coronavirus.
He has cleaned out his garage. He goes out for an occasional drive, and he played two nine-hole rounds of golf, including one with wife Ruby. And he is running out of things to watch on TV. Cooper also is keeping tabs on what Sox pitchers are doing to stay ready near their homes or in Arizona.
Cooper is ready to get out of there and get back to work.
“We’re going to play; it’s just not yet,” he said by phone from Nashville, Tennessee. “Things have to keep going. And we’re getting closer.”
He’s just waiting for the call.
“I’ve got a bag packed upstairs,” Cooper said. “If somebody calls me in the morning, I can be there that night.”
No one knows when or even if baseball will return in 2020 — and, if it does, what it will look like or where it will be played.
Cooper, who would be entering his 33rd season in the Sox’ organization and 18th full season as the pitching coach, said: “It’s hard to fathom that we won’t [play] in some shape or form. Baseball has played through everything, through world wars. You played a couple of days after 9-11. Nothing has ever stopped baseball, other than the players’ strike.”
If baseball does get a go-ahead to resume, Cooper said 25 days of ”spring training” would be needed for a staff. He also said that starters won’t be ready to make full starts when a season would begin, that his pitchers are doing things now that could give them “an edge” when it does and that right-hander Michael Kopech might be ready by Opening Day. Cooper also said his staff was clicking in March.
“I really liked what was going on, I’m not just saying that,” Cooper said. “I really liked what I was seeing and the challenge of where we might be able to take things. It was just a feel I had with my eyes, what I saw guys doing. We were in full swing.”
Pitchers are throwing off mounds, sticking to plans laid out for them.
“I’m not going to talk about exactly what we have them doing because somebody else might not be doing that and we might have an edge,” Cooper said. “The bottom line is, I know what they’re doing, and if we get a heads-up that something might be happening, we might expedite their work before seeing them in Arizona and hit the ground running in spring training.”
Cooper doesn’t know where the games would be played. If it means playing at an empty Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, so be it.
“All the scenarios I’m hearing, somebody else will figure it out,” he said. “Just tell me what the rules are and let’s go to work, let’s go play.”
A population staggered by the pandemic could use something to look forward to each day, such as a ballgame to watch.
“If that’s the case, I’m even in more favor of going,” he said. “I don’t know how much longer we can go shutting down the economy, as well.”
It would be uplifting to see Kopech, who topped 100 mph in his one Cactus League inning coming back from Tommy John surgery, in uniform when the season begins. He wasn’t going to open the season in the majors, but now it’s not out of the question.
“He was still climbing for the very last rungs on the ladder of the rehab program, so, yes, it’s conceivable he might be ready,” Cooper said. “He certainly looked good before we left.”
The Sox, built to contend for the first time in years, were looking good as a whole.
“We were off and running with an arrow pointing up, and that progress has been halted,” Cooper said. “That sucks for us, but it sucks for everybody. Crazy stuff, but you have to deal with it.
“So I’m anxious to pick up where we were and keep going. And win a division.”