By Rob Rains
As the longtime baseball coach at Elk Grove High School in California, Jeff Carlson had been on the receiving end of six happy telephone calls before Thursday getting the news that one of his former players had been promoted to the major leagues.
None were like the call that he and his wife Caryn got on Thursday morning.
This call was from their son, Dylan, with the news that he was being promoted to the Cardinals and will be with the team this weekend as they resume their schedule against the White Sox in Chicago.
“His mom came over and put it on speaker and said, ‘Dylan wants to talk to us,’” Carlson said. “I knew it was something important that he wanted both of us to hear. He told us, and we got very excited and emotional.
“You coach a lot of kids that are like your son so you’re very excited when they reach their goal. You’re pretty proud as a coach when any of your players reach the big leagues but when it’s your own son it’s pretty special.”
The 21-year-old Carlson, the Cardinals’ top prospect, will be making his debut as the Cardinals play their first games since July 29, a doubleheader on Saturday against the White Sox. The team has had 14 games postponed because of the COVID-19 outbreak that has now affected 10 players and eight staff members with one new positive test, from a coach, reported on Thursday.
Since fans are not allowed at the games, Carlson said he and his wife plan to drive from their home near Sacramento to southern California to watch the games on television with Dylan’s younger brother and other family members.
“He’s extremely excited and ready to go,” Jeff Carlson said about Dylan. “He’s been ready. We’re proud of him. He’s been itching and itching to get that call to get up there and be part of the team and help them win. He was so pumped and fired up. He was real emotional.
“I know all of the work he’s put in and everything. For it to be coming true and reach that ultimate goal, it’s very exciting. Now he’s getting his chance.”
Carlson is one of five players who will be joining the team from the satellite camp in Springfield to replace players lost to COVID-19. Also called up were first baseman John Nogowski and pitchers Seth Elledge, Rob Kaminsky and Ricardo Sanchez. John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations, said Sanchez likely will be designated as the 29th player for the doubleheader.
Mozeliak also said pitcher Austin Gomber will be placed on the COVID injured list, although he has not tested positive.
“Through our contact tracing he was identified as someone who could be at risk,” Mozeliak said. “He has been quarantined this entire time and putting him on the COVID IL will allow him to pick up a baseball tomorrow and we will use the weekend to get him ready and hopefully we can activate him by early next week. It’s somewhat of a strategic move but also because he’s been dormant since we returned from Milwaukee.”
Jose Oquendo also is coming up from the Springfield camp to join the major-league coaching staff, Mozeliak said.
The Cardinals will have some players heading to Chicago by bus on Friday but the team is also renting 41 cars for players and staff members to drive there by themselves, buying one more day of not being together as a team to continue attempts to avoid more possible spread of the coronavirus.
Mozeliak said he expected the team to be “rusty” as it returns to play, but he will take that over what he and the rest of the Cardinals have gone through the last two weeks.
“You put a lot of trust and faith in what players have been trying to do when they’ve been at home,” Mozeliak said. “Overall I feel like the vibe of the group has been very good. Candidly I suspect we might look a bit rusty but we’re happy to be back playing baseball.”
The team is holding some “individualized” workouts on the field at Busch Stadium before the players head to Chicago.
The Cardinals are scheduled to play six games in Chicago, three against the White Sox and three against the Cubs but it also is likely there will be at least one doubleheader during the Cubs series to make up one of the three games which was postponed last weekend. Mozeliak said he expects that Major League Baseball will release the schedule on Friday.
The Cardinals have played only five games this season. In the last 15 days, they have had only two organized team workouts, on Aug. 5 and 6. They were isolated in their hotel rooms in Milwaukee for five days after the team learned of the first two positive test results on July 30 before they were cleared to return home, and now have been idle for the last seven days at their homes in St. Louis.
The postponement of Friday night’s game against the White Sox will be their 14th since the COVID-19 outbreak began. Beginning on Saturday, there will be 44 days left before the regular season is scheduled to end on Sept. 27.
“It’s the hand we’re dealt,” Mozeliak said. “Nobody is going to listen to us complain. No one is going to hear us whine.
“We’re 2-3. When you look at our potential schedule it’s daunting. Everybody would agree it’s not going to be easy but if this team clicks it’s going to be very good. That’s what we believe. We’re going to approach this as if we’re getting a second chance. Now that we have a second chance we should make the most of it.”
Mozeliak said he does not expect that any of the players who have been out with COVID-19 will be cleared in time to rejoin the team while it is in Chicago.
Adam Wainwright is scheduled to start the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, with the second being a bullpen game. Dakota Hudson is scheduled to start on Sunday.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains