It started with what Patrick Sandoval called “really, really bad body aches in my back, unlike anything I’ve felt before,” and it continued with a few days of chills and a fever.
The left-handed pitcher had a hunch he might have contracted the coronavirus, and those fears were confirmed with a positive test June 22, a setback that delayed his arrival to Angels training camp by a week.
“It was a little scary at first,” Sandoval said on a videoconference call Monday. “Obviously, the virus has killed many people, and that’s sad and tragic, so that’s on your mind. I just took it day by day, and once the symptoms started going away, I felt confident I would be able to get back to playing baseball.”
Sandoval, 23, is the first confirmed Angels player to test positive for the coronavirus. The Angels had two unnamed players test positive before June 19. Sandoval self-quarantined in his Mission Viejo home for two weeks and was not cleared to join the team until he had two negative tests last week.
Sandoval, who went 0-4 with a 5.03 ERA in 10 games, nine of them starts, as a rookie last season, believes he contracted the virus while golfing with a friend three days before he started feeling symptoms.
“I try to be as safe as possible, I limit contact with friends and family, but I still ended up getting it,” Sandoval said. “No one really knows what’s going on with the virus. There are so many questions to be answered about it. One day you’re in contact with somebody, and you get it. It kind of opened my eyes to that.”
Sandoval was expected to compete for a rotation spot entering training camp, but he probably won’t have time to build up his pitch count enough to start when the pandemic-shortened 60-game season begins July 24. With rosters expanding to 30 to start the season, he could provide a boost from the bullpen.
Sandoval, who has one of the best changeups in the Angels system, reported to camp Thursday and threw a bullpen session Sunday.
“It went really well, my body feels great,” Sandoval said “Honestly, I feel like I’m in pretty good shape right now, so that’s a good sign.”
So are all the precautions the Angels are taking to prevent players and coaches from contracting and spreading the coronavirus, an effort Sandoval has witnessed first-hand since he returned. That gives him confidence that Major League Baseball will be able to complete an abbreviated season.
“The team has a pretty good grasp on the proper protocols, and I feel like we’re on top of everything,” Sandoval said. “We have conversations all the time about staying away [from each other], being smart, wearing masks every time you go out. I’m pretty confident in what we’re doing.
“I can’t speak for other teams, but everyone here is taking this seriously. Everyone wants to play. We don’t want to be the team that messes it up for the whole league.”