With no innings to pitch, zero hitters to face and the baseball schedule on hiatus for the foreseeable future, what is Justin Grimm of the Milwaukee Brewers up to these days?
The Virginia High graduate is spending quality time with his wife, Gina, and two sons, 22-month-old Austin and two-week-old Jaxon, at their home in Nashville.
Grimm plays with the kids until around noon, works out for a couple of hours while the tykes are napping and then hangs out with his family the rest of the day. Gina has suggested that her husband binge-watch “Sons of Anarchy.”
“She thinks I’ll like it, so I may do so,” Grimm said. “But I just watch whatever is on TV and just try not to scroll away too much.”
As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has shut down Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball indefinitely, Grimm is adjusting to these stressful times just like everybody else.
“Baseball is just a game and what is going on in the world right now is so much bigger than the game of baseball,” Grimm said. “The sport will continue on after this all blows over and life will get back to normal. Right now the focus is to do our part as Americans in helping to prevent the spread of this virus and the sooner we do that, the sooner we can get back to things being normal.”
Grimm had been superb in spring training before all this happened, compiling a 1.50 ERA in six Cactus League outings for the Brewers. The 31-year-old right-hander allowed one hit in six innings, while walking four and striking out nine.
Opponents were hitting just .056 against him and manager Craig Counsell had praised his performance.
“I can only control what I do on my end,” Grimm said. “I was lights out in spring training and throwing the ball as well as I have ever thrown it.”
For those who follow the Brewers closely, where did Grimm stand in terms of securing a spot in Milwaukee’s bullpen?
“With the late-winter addition of David Phelps and the club’s commitment to Freddy Peralta and Corbin Burnes both beginning the year as part of the Opening Day roster, Grimm was likely ticketed for Triple-A [San Antonio],” said Kyle Lewsniewski, the managing editor of BrewCrewBall.com. “Overcoming his non-roster status and leapfrogging several players already on the 40-man roster would have likely been difficult, but he did his best to make a strong impression on the coaches and front office staff.
“Though he wasn’t likely to begin the year in the majors, Grimm has probably pushed himself towards the top of the Triple-A depth chart and if he can perform well for San Antonio once play does begin, the Brewers will figure out how to give him an opportunity based on their history.”
Guys like Grimm, unsure if they’d open the season in the majors or minors, are in a particularly precarious position when, and if, play resumes.
“It’s a tough situation out there for all the players competing for jobs right now,” Lewsniewski said. “There won’t be a resolution for guys like Justin for what appears to be another several weeks and possibly a couple of months.”
Grimm is not overdoing it in terms of training during this long-term break.
“I have just been preparing like I would have if I were getting ready for the season,” Grimm said. “I don’t think now is the time to do more with weights and increase volume of throwing. The hay is already in the barn so to speak, so I think getting on a program to maintain and stay right where I’m at is the plan.”
Pittsburgh Pirates minor leaguer Will Craig, a former Science Hill High School star, also lives in Nashville and has the same agents as Grimm (Dustin and Hunter Bledsoe). A first baseman, Craig will open the season with the Class AAA Indianapolis Indians.
“The tough part is trying to figure out when the start day will be for the season, so I can be sure to stay ready,” Craig said. “It is such a waiting game at this point.”
Former Tazewell High School slugger Chase Illig is still in Tampa, Florida, as New York Yankees minor leaguers are currently quarantined in their hotel rooms after two players in the farm system tested positive for the coronavirus.
“I’m still virus free,” Illig, a second-year pro, said on Friday.
Baseball players are used to a daily grind and the rhythms that accompany the marathon of a season, but they are now in an unprecedented situation.
Grimm has pitched in 306 career regular-season games in the majors since 2012 and won a World Series ring with the Chicago Cubs in 2016.
As he seeks a return to the big leagues with the Brewers, he’ll take a respite to be a stay-at-home dad and might even start Season 1 of “Sons of Anarchy.”
“I have just been taking advantage of this time of being together as a family,” Grimm said.