Commissioner Rob Manfred has a conference call planned with MLB owners on Monday to discuss the coronavirus, but all indications point to the season opening as planned, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich. MLB has been in contact with the CDC, and each team has a specified point person in charge of their specific situations. Locker room protocol across the North American sports landscape has been adjusted to help protect players from COVID-19, and fan access to players has also been limited as a precaution (though some players have prepared pre-signed autographs for fans at spring games). In Italy, all sporting events are planned to move forward without fans present, and the NBA has begun preparations for such a circumstance as well. As of right now, MLB plans to have fans present as the regular season kicks off at the end of March, but a lot can obviously change over the next three weeks.
- In non-virus news, catchers around the league are giving umpires a better view to call balls and strikes by receiving from a knee instead of the traditional crouch, per Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald. Christian Vazquez employed the stance for the Red Sox some last year, and the returns were good. He finished fifth in statcast’s Runs from Extra Strikes metric, trailing only Roberto Perez, Yasmani Grandal, Tyler Flowers and Austin Hedges, the latter of whom led the field by a substantial margin. Red Sox interim manager Ron Roenicke notes that receiving from a knee makes it tougher to block pitches, but the premium placed on stealing strikes makes the tradeoff worth it on the whole.
- In contract news, the Rays and Austin Meadows have begun preliminary discussions about a potential extension, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Both sides are open to the possibility, though talks have not yet reached the exchange-of-numbers stage. After a monster 2019, Meadows won co-MVP honors for the team and proved himself a key offensive cog moving forward. Meadows slashed .291/.364/.558 with 33 home runs and 89 RBIs (142 wRC+) in 2019. Locking up the soon-to-be 25-year-old would certainly be a boon for an organization ever-mindful of its financial limitations.