White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper was out of commission for the first three days of his hospital stay in Washington, D.C., when he developed diverticulitis, a severe inflammation of the colon.
But after that, he was still the Sox’ pitching coach, even from a hospital bed.
“I was texting guys left and right,” Cooper said upon his return to the team Saturday at U.S. Cellular Field. “During their outing. During the game. After the game. Texting the catchers. Just praising them for some of the great stuff I was seeing them do.”
For what it’s worth, White Sox pitchers were 0-3 with a 7.13 ERA in the three games that Cooper was incommunicado. Once he started coaching from his hospital bed, they were 3-4 with a 3.02 ERA in the final seven games of the 3-7 road trip.
Cooper said he picked up a few things from his perspective in the hospital that he might not otherwise have seen from the ballpark.
“Yeah. There were a couple of things we talked about,” Cooper said. “I’m always looking at how we can get better. There were a couple of things with individual guys — nothing major — but things we’re going to stay on top of. I don’t want to give away trade secrets. But I’d like to think they could help.”
Cooper, 56, was in good spirits upon his return to U.S. Cellular Field.
“I’m a lot better,” he said. “The people in the Washington hospital, they were realy good people and really took good care of me — as well as Herm (Schneider) and Brian Ball (the Sox’ trainers) the morning of the incident.
“But there are so many people that wake up with pain every day — so many people that have so much worse than I had. it. I had what amounted to a bad stomach ache for five straight days. It’s small potatoes compared to many other people.”
But Cooper said he was concerned it was more serious when he was laid up the first three days.
“Sure, I was concerned. I’m hoping this is something that’s not worse than what it was,” he said. “You always have thoughts ... when you get older you start realizing that you’re not immortal. But it was just diverticulitis, which amounts to a bad bely ache. I’m not going to belly-ache about that.
“It’s like anything else. Life throws you some things — good bad — along the way. It’s not about if it’s going to happen. It’s about when. You just deal with it and keep moving. Because that’s all you really have to do — keep moving along and that’s what I’ve tried to do.”
Cooper said he does not have to change his diet, but already has made modifications anyway.
“It has nothing to do with diet,” he said. “I’m trying to do a little bietter in that area nevertheless. But it’s genetics and getting older.”
Once he was able to watch the games, Cooper said it was not easy from a hospital bed.
“I never been in this spot,” he said. “I didn’t see anything in watching at all. I wasn’t in shape to watch anything in those days. That’s when I was at my worse. Then I saw every game in Celveland and every game in Toronto. And it was hard. It’s hard to watch, because you want to be there as a coach. You’d like to think you can add something that can help. But they did well ... in many ways, the pitching staff. We’re looking to continue that.”
The White Sox obviously were thrilled to have their pitching mentor back with the team.
“It’s good to have Coop back,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “We try to staff ourselves so that nobody’s irreplaceable. That being said, Don’s obviously very special and has accomplished a lot and has close relationships with these guys. It’s good to be back at full force from a coaching standpoint.”
Cooper is such a presence on this team, it probably lifted the team’s spirits just to have him back in the clubhouse again. Right?
“No. Not at all. It was a good road trip,” Sox manager Ventura deadpanned, before turning more serious. “No. It’s good to have him back. We missed him. I know he missed us and doing stuff. We kind of feel normal again.”