As states throughout the nation begin to lift or ease their stay-at-home ordinances, several teams have begun to open their facilities to 40-man players. The Yankees, Phillies and Blue Jays have been allowing limited workouts at their spring facilities in Florida, and the Rays this week are opening Tropicana Field to players on their 40-man roster, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Rays players will be limited to small-group or individual workouts for the time being and won’t be in the weight room or clubhouse just yet. The Marlins this week also opened their spring facility in Jupiter, Fla., to players on the 40-man roster, as first reported by Andy Slater of Fox Sports 640 AM (Twitter link). As with the Rays, the Marlins are allowing a limited scope in terms of workouts. Miami players can use the facility’s batting cages and mounds but won’t be in the clubhouse, weight room or other areas. Teams throughout MLB seem likely to follow suit, as they continue to hope that the league and the Players Association can reach critical agreements on health protocol and salary structure in a shortened season.
On that note, a few more items pertaining to the potential restart of the season…
- Marc Carig and Andy McCullough of The Athletic spoke with six epidemiology experts about the league’s first draft of its health and safety protocols that were sent to teams (subscription required). All who reviewed the 67-page document praised its comprehensiveness, but questions arose about the lack of specifics surrounding positive tests among players and personnel — particularly when those positive tests occur on the road. The plan calls for saliva-based testing rather than nasal exams, which Dr. Michael Saag of the University of Alabama Birmingham explained is “in its infancy with this disorder” and not yet as accurate as the more intrusive nasal testing. He and several other interviewees acknowledged reservations regarding the plan could be lessened by June or July, but it’s impossible to know exactly where testing capabilities will lie at that point. Questions were also raised about the increased risk of clubhouse outbreaks several weeks into a rebooted season if and when players begin to let their guard down and lessen their adherence to the league’s guidelines.
- Tackling the plan from another angle, Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic spoke to five anonymous baseball operations leaders about the proposal (subscription also required). Most emphasized that the current plan is only a “first draft,” with one exec cautioning that the final protocols “will look way different” after feedback from teams and the MLBPA is incorporated. Teams are set to provide feedback on the document by week’s end, per Rosenthal, who adds that MLB also sent the guidelines to governors in every state where teams play. Multiple executives called for increased testing and pointed to that as a more critical area of need than the currently rigid guidelines players would be asked to follow at the field. Others have pushed back on restrictions of hydrotherapy pools, indoor batting cages and even showers at the park, suggesting players should be permitted to use them in shifts. Multiple players, including Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong and Marlins reliever Brandon Kintzler, raised similar issues this week when speaking with Jesse Rogers of ESPN.com.
- Both Joel Sherman of the New York Post and Buster Olney of ESPN suggest that the MLBPA is in what has become a rare position in recent years — one in which it has leverage over the league and its owners. While the players needn’t simply accept the league’s 50-50 revenue split, both Sherman and Olney highlight the manners in which they could use the current stalemate as a means of negotiating longer-term wins (e.g. service time manipulation, anti-tanking measures) in exchange for a 2020 arrangement the owners deem more favorable.