With Spring Training suspended and the start of the season postponed, the Arizona Diamondbacks are trying to adapt to a new normal.
Instead of players working out in batting cages, employees are cleaning them. Instead of administering tests for speed and agility, the team had to administer a test to a minor-leaguer for COVID-19.
It came back negative.
Major League Baseball announced March 12 that it would be suspending Spring Training and delaying the start of the 2020 season by at least two weeks “due to the national emergency created by the coronavirus pandemic.”
A few days later, the league said the start would be delayed even more so it could follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention restricting events of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks,
Mike Hazen, the Arizona Diamondbacks general manager, said the club’s spring facility will remain open on an “optional basis,” but no formal workouts will be held until clearance comes from MLB. Hazen, who spoke with reporters via conference call, said players have been encouraged to go home.
“We’re obviously taking every precaution as necessary and with guidance to ensure the cleanliness and standard of the facility, to make sure it’s still a safe environment for everybody,” he said.
Hazen said the organization tested one player for COVID-19, out of “an abundance of caution.” The player, a minor-leaguer, was tested, with a negative result. No other players have experienced symptoms or have been tested for coronavirus.
“If they show signs and symptoms,” we’re following the guidance of our medical professionals and what they advise us to do. We have advised our players to report any symptoms to us moving forward,” Hazen said.
The Diamondbacks facility was shut down entirely for a weekend as it underwent a “deep-clean,” Hazen said. He said he expects this to become regular practice over the next few weeks.
While no formal workouts will be held, players and staff are expected to continue to use the facility to stay in shape, since most players live in Arizona.
“We haven’t really tackled how exactly we’re going to staff anything,” Hazen said. “We gave the staff the same method that we gave the players: we would encourage them to be here. If they don’t feel comfortable being here, then we respect that. We don’t foresee any reason why they should be.”
Hazen, who will stick around the spring facility, said he expects manager Torey Lovullo to be “in and out” of the complex during this time.
“But again, depending on how many players are here, if we need to have supervised workouts, people throwing, doing soft-toss, hitting ground balls, whatever that may be, we want to make sure we have enough supervision. But if that number is smaller, we’ll staff it accordingly.”
The organization has largely taken scouts off of the road. It has eliminated air travel and has advised “regional scouting via auto if people were comfortable doing it,” Hazen said.
But, if there is no baseball to be seen anywhere, there is no need for scouts to be on the road.
While players have been advised to go home, Hazen said minor league players have been “given the same guidance that we gave the other (players),” citing the lack of workouts at this point in the spring.
“We are cognizant of guys who may have trouble traveling — certain players. We’re not going to encourage them to do that.”
Regarding paying minor leagues during the suspension, Hazen said he “hasn’t been given guidance on that.”
When baseball does return, teams must decide how long players will need to get in game-shape.
Hazen said the main focus right now is on the safety and health of his players and their families.
“We’re all adjusting to this the same way you guys have a lot of questions,” Hazen said.
“Trying to foreshadow a little bit, but wanting to make sure we’re operating within the guidelines of Major League Baseball and the government.”