St. Louis returned to the field Saturday for the first time in 17 days after its season was derailed by a coronavirus outbreak. The Cardinals headed into the weekend having played all of five games this season, winning two.

CHICAGO (AP) — After weeks of uncertainty, John Mozeliak watched the St. Louis Cardinals drop off their rental cars and prepare for work. His cell phone was filled with encouraging baseball messages instead of questions of concern.

For Mozeliak, the club's president of baseball operations, it was a very good day.

“Today feels very much like opening day for the St. Louis Cardinals, and there's a lot of excitement right now in that clubhouse,” Mozeliak said.

St. Louis returned to the field Saturday for the first time in 17 days after its season was derailed by a coronavirus outbreak. The Cardinals headed into the weekend having played all of five games this season, winning two.

The reigning NL Central champions scored four times in the first inning of a doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox, kicking off an extended stay in the Windy City and a busy finish to the pandemic-shortened season.

“It’s easy to complain. It’s the easiest thing in the world to complain. But winners find solutions,” manager Mike Shildt said. “And that’s the mindset of this group, individually and collectively. Yeah, there’s been a ton of challenges for this group over the last, you know, couple, three weeks, but we accept them and we move forward.”

The Cardinals had a much different look from the team that lost 3-0 at Minnesota on July 29 in their previous game. Star catcher Yadier Molina and infielder Paul DeJong were among 10 players and 18 members of the organization overall with confirmed coronavirus cases, shaking up the roster and coaching staff.

Top prospect Dylan Carlson was brought up from the team’s alternate training site in Springfield, Missouri, along with first baseman John Nogowski, right-hander Seth Elledge, and left-handers Ricardo Sánchez and Rob Kaminsky. Sánchez was designated the 29th man for Saturday's doubleheader.

The Cardinals also added José Oquendo and Roberto Espinoza to their coaching staff, a day after Willie McGee announced he had opted out of the rest of the season. McGee was in his third year as a coach with the team.

Carlson, a switch-hitting outfielder, was selected by St. Louis in the first round of the 2016 draft. He hit .292 with 26 homers in the minors last year. He was in the starting lineup for the doubleheader opener, batting sixth and playing left field in his big league debut.

“He’s raring to go,” Shildt said. “He’s been working out and getting after it and playing and running and throwing and hitting, so we’re going to go check it out and excited to watch it.”

St. Louis also placed left-hander Austin Gomber on the injured list. Gomber has not tested positive for COVID-19, but came up as a potential concern in contact tracing.

“Now he'll use the weekend to get going again,” Mozeliak said on a video conference call. “He was actually cleared officially yesterday, so he was able to get on the field.”

The Cardinals were able to work out five times while they waited to play again, including three individualized workouts. They were supposed to open the series against the White Sox on Friday, but the opener was pushed back a day.

The team traveled to Chicago in 41 rental cars as an added precaution. Shildt was the last one to hit the road, making the trip in a GMC Yukon because it was the only vehicle left.

“Took me back to some grassroot days, you know, Legion Ball and, you know, driving three hours to playoff games and tournaments and all kind of fun stuff," Shildt said. "So I thought it was great.”

Shildt also used the time to think about how he will navigate a dizzying finish to the season that includes 21 games over the last half of August and 32 more in September. After Sunday's series finale against the White Sox, the Cardinals move to the north side of Chicago for five games against the division-leading Cubs, including doubleheaders on Monday and Wednesday.

But, after what they confronted while they were away, the Cardinals were looking on the positive side. They were playing again, after all. They also will confront their closing stretch with expanded active rosters, including 29 for their seven-inning doubleheaders.

“Do I think it's doable? Yes. Do I think it's daunting? Yes. Am I glad we get the opportunity to do it? Yes,” Mozeliak said.