As Billy Eppler tries to change the behavior of his players in order to get through this pandemic, he wants the to change the way they think of the clubhouse.
“Think of the clubhouse as more of a closet,” the Angels general manager said on Tuesday. “It’s where clothes hang. Absent of anything you need to do in the training room or weight room, get outside.”
Eppler and the Angels will begin to see how that works out on Wednesday, when players officially report for the team’s first summer camp at Angel Stadium and Long Beach State’s Blair Field.
There will be a couple days of physicals and testing, including for COVID-19, and the first workout will be on Friday.
While the work the players will do on the field will approximate spring training, little else will be similar. The players will be split between the two locations — although some of them will go back and forth — and they’ll find different living conditions when they are off the field.
Eppler said the communal couches and tables that had been sitting in the middle of the Angels’ clubhouse have been removed.
“It’s pretty important that we do everything in our power to make sure all health and safety is at the forefront of every decision,” Eppler said.
He was quick to point out that doesn’t merely apply to the 56 players they will have in camp, but to all of the coaches, trainers, clubhouse employees and other staffers who will have direct contact with one another.
“It’s 175 to 180 people and they all have to be disciplined,” Eppler said. “It’s not just the players. It’s on everybody.”
Players will have temperature checks twice a day and coronavirus tests every other day.
Players this season also have the choice to opt out if they are not comfortable playing amid the pandemic. So far no Angels players have indicated they would opt out, Eppler said.
Beyond the concerns about COVID-19, the Angels have a baseball season to prepare for, with limitations they don’t face during a normal six weeks in Arizona.
Teams are only allowed three exhibition games against other clubs. Presumably the Angels would play those against the Dodgers, and maybe the Padres, shortly before opening day.
Beyond that, the teams will have their game-speed preparation done by playing intrasquad games.
Those games will also provide the bulk of the development time for the prospects who are still trying to work toward their big league debuts. Outfielders Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh, for example, will likely get tested with at-bats against Andrew Heaney, Dylan Bundy, Julio Teheran and Shohei Ohtani.
Young pitchers like Reid Detmers — the Angels’ freshly signed first-round pick, who has been officially invited to camp — will get to test their mettle against Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon and … Ohtani.
Adell will be among the most intriguing prospects to monitor during summer camp. He was considered near ready for the big leagues during spring training, and he’ll go into summer camp still needing to show the Angels a few things before they are ready to put him on the active roster.
Eppler said they are “hopeful” that he will be up sometime in the shortened 2020 season. If Adell doesn’t make it by opening day, he’ll keep playing intrasquad games at Blair Field, facing the same type of pitchers he’d see in Triple-A — Patrick Sandoval or Jaime Barria or Jose Suarez.
“There will be talented pitchers there for him to face and we’ll go from there,” Eppler said.
As for all of the other Angels minor leaguers who are outside their player pool of up to 60, Eppler said he is hopeful that there could be some kind of player development program in fall to replace the time they’ve missed during the season.
Eppler also said the Angels are currently discussing whether those players will continue to receive the $400 weekly stipends they were paid in April, May and June.
Eppler said Dillon Peters, who had an oblique issue at the end of spring training, will be ready to pitch without restrictions by mid July. No other players on the 56-man roster are limited by injuries at the moment, Eppler said. …
The Angels have four open spots in their player pool, and Eppler said he has no immediate plan of who will fill them. “We wanted to make sure we leave ourselves open and flexible should the opportunity arise to acquire players, whether that’s via trade or waiver wire or if we want to sign a player to a minor league contract,” he said.