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Grounds crew racing to ready battered field

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It's been a brutal winter in Chicago and U.S. Cellular Field apparently has the scars to show it.

Head groundkeeper Roger Bossard showed pictures of the the field to members of the media on Monday and said he would have to take drastic measures in order to have it ready for Opening Day on March 31.

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"I've been in this for over 45 years and I have seen a lot of snow and certainly that is not hard to handle," Bossard said, according to ESPNChicago.com. "This weekend I had my whole crew in and they took off 400 tons [of snow]. "My problem is the permafrost. I have actually never run into 30 inches of permafrost."

Manager Robin Ventura, speaking to reporters after the team's Cactus League game in Phoenix on Monday, said he was aware of the issue.

"I haven't talked to [Bossard] since he left, but I would imagine that he's pretty nervous, knowing him," Ventura said. "He didn't sound too optimistic about it when he left, but there's nothing we can do. I remember it being cold and snowy and all that other stuff, but I don't think it has been quite like this. This is new for him, too."

According to reports, the left-field grass in Chicago is brown from wind burn, the right-field corner is buried beneath six inches of ice, the warning track is muddy, a dugout is filled with snow and the infield is being thawed with an industrial heater.

Bossard said the permafrost won't go away before March 31 without sustained temperatures of above 50 degrees, so he will force hot air onto the field under the tarp covering and through the field drainage system.

The team plans to hold a workout there the day before Opening Day, so his deadline is actually March 30.

"Our backs are against the wall a little bit, but I have a good crew," Bossard said. "I'm doing everything I can here and I'm really comfortable that we will not only be able to open on Opening Day, but to have the workout the day before."

Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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