A week into its schedule, MLB’s delayed and abbreviated season is now threatened even further.
Six teams will be idle Friday – and some longer – after an outbreak of positive coronavirus tests among the Miami Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals forced the postponement or cancellation of 15 games and counting.
The Dodgers have forged on, halfway through a nine-game road trip, and manager Dave Roberts has challenged his team:
“I just had a conversation with Justin (Turner, the Dodgers’ player representative to the union) a little bit before this call and just kind of floated the idea that all of our guys should should wear a mask in the dugout when they’re not playing,” Roberts said. “Essentially have that mask, that thing going on your neck as part of your equipment so it’s easy access to put on when you’re not on the field playing, trying to keep the numbers down in the dugout. So we’re certainly talking about it.
“We’ve worked hard to get to this point. So … we just have to do everything we can to minimize the spread.”
There were reports Friday afternoon that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred had raised the possibility to players union chief Tony Clark of canceling or pausing the season if players don’t follow health and safety protocols more closely. The Marlins’ outbreak could be tied to players visiting the hotel bar on the road, and players around the league could be seen high-fiving, spitting and congregating in the dugout during games – all prohibited behaviors, supposedly – all with masks frequently not in evidence.
Roberts and Astros manager Dusty Baker were disciplined after their teams left the dugout and congregated on the field during an incident Tuesday in Houston.
“The Marlins situation is something that I don’t think anyone hoped for or expected. It’s not good for anyone,” Roberts said. “The St. Louis thing, I think, is something that you prepare for things to happen. No one is immune to this virus. That’s why we have 60 guys potentially to pull from (in the player pool). We have taxi guys.
“But I do think that everyone needs to take responsibility for their actions. I really do. You’re talking about being under the microscope, with the CDC, the American population and how we’re doing things and we have to be accountable. Whether it’s guys on the bench in the ‘pen, away from the field, all this stuff matters. We’ve come so far to get to this point and for it to be shut down because of people being irresponsible certainly is unacceptable.”
Roberts acknowledged the commissioner’s threat to pause or cancel the season but said he is optimistic things will proceed.
“You hear the commissioner putting everyone on notice,” he said. “Obviously, the commissioner’s office, the players union, everyone is motivated to keep going – the fans as well. But people’s safety and health has to be the most important thing. And it just speaks to we have to do what we can do to minimize as much as we can. Hopefully it doesn’t get to that though.”
MLB has charged each team with designating a “coronavirus protocol compliance officer” who will keep players and staff in line. The Dodgers have given those duties to Ron Porterfield, the team’s director of player health.
The Marlins’ situation and its ramifications have obviously been a prime topic among Dodgers players. But reliever Adam Kolarek said the consensus feeling is “an old adage … control what you can control and this is obviously way out of our hands.”
“I think it’s hard on the country as a whole the last few months – the uncertainty. I mean, everyone wants to know their schedule and we enjoy planning out our daily routines, our weekly routines,” Kolarek said.
“As far as our discussions, like I said a little bit previously, you hear things, you digest it the best you can. But, I just got done working out. There’s 10 guys working out. There’s guys in the cages right now, getting ready for tonight. That’s all we can do. … I think that’s all we can really think about. It’s unfortunate that everyone’s dealing with this across the world. But us as a team, we’ve talked about it. We were obviously hoping for the best. But as we’ve gone to the field every day it’s just full steam ahead.”
Left-hander Clayton Kershaw came out of his bullpen session Thursday feeling well and will come off the Injured List to start the series finale Sunday in Arizona.
Kershaw was placed on the IL to start the season when he injured his back during a workout. Despite his past history of back issues, Kershaw called the injury not “super serious” and was throwing before games just a couple days later.
With Kershaw folded into the rotation Sunday, Walker Buehler, Dustin May and Ross Stripling will each have five days’ rest before their next starts, with the three-game series in San Diego beginning Monday.
Reliever Josh Sborz was optioned off the active roster Friday to clear a spot for right-hander Tony Gonsolin, who started against the Diamondbacks. Sborz went to Camelback Ranch, where he will work out rather than joining the taxi squad. Left-hander Victor Gonzalez was activated from the taxi squad Thursday, leaving a vacancy. Roberts said right-hander Mitchell White is a candidate to join the team in San Diego as the third member of the taxi squad, along with Rocky Gale and Zach McKinstry.