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Mariners owner Stanton: Team is prepared to start 2020 in Peoria

Mariners owner John Stanton says the team could play regular season games in Peoria. (Getty)

With Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s announcement Wednesday that he was placing a temporary ban on certain gatherings of more than 250 people due to the high amount of coronavirus cases in the state of Washington, primarily in King County, one question that came up was what the Mariners would be doing at the start of the year.

M’s don’t know where season will start but know it’ll be different

The ban runs through March, and could extend into April, and the Mariners’ first game of the year is scheduled for March 26 against the Texas Rangers at home in Seattle. After that, four-game series ends, Seattle is set to host the Minnesota Twins before departing on a roadtrip before returning for a six-game homestand from April 9 to April 14.

The Mariners are currently in Peoria for spring training and the team and league are figuring out how to handle at least the first two series of the 2020 season.

Mariners owner John Stanton joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant and said that there’s a good chance the team stays in Peoria for the start of the regular season.

“We don’t like the option of playing in an empty stadium at home,” he said. “It’s difficult for us to play in Arlington (where the Texas Rangers play) because their stadium is just being completed, so we would probably play in Peoria, that way everyone could stay here.”

That said, there’s a chance plans could change.

“I expect the news is going to keep changing, probably every day, and opening day is two weeks from today,” Stanton said, “and I suspect there will be a different news story on the virus and its effect every day, probably every hour.”

Washington has the most reported and confirmed cases of any state in the U.S., and Stanton and the organization don’t want to take any unnecessary risks by returning home too soon

“The most important thing for our organization, top to bottom, is the health and safety of our fans, our players and our staff,” he said. “We’re starting with that criteria and the second thing I’d say is we’re relying on experts.”

Additionally, Stanton said he has been in constant conversation with Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, King County Executive Dow Constantine as well as Gov. Inslee and that a major factor on when the Mariners next play in Seattle is up to them.

“What we’ve said to them is we’re going to be informed by them as far as when they’re comfortable with us playing in Seattle,” Stanto said. “As soon as they are, we want to be a role model for safe distancing and safe behavior (and so) we’re taking steps, so we disinfect the ballpark every night. We’ve already done some initial cleaning, but we’ve bought some additional equipment.”

Since Gov. Inslee’s ban currently runs through just March, Stanto said the Mariners are planning on playing the Boston Red Sox at T-Mobile Park starting April. That could change, obviously, as Inslee could extend the ban or the team could opt to stay in Peoria if that’s where the regular season begins.

“There’s a lot of time between now and then,” Stanton said.

The Mariners have been aware this was likely to happen, Stanton said, and he and other team owners involved talked Wednesday about the next steps.

“Every one one of them is saying ‘we’ll do whatever we need to do. We’re in this together,'” Stanton said. “And (MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is in a difficult situation. He’s trying to weigh and balance the various factors and it’s still, fundamentally, the disease is localized … it may not be. We’re all watching the news to see what happens next.”

Here in Seattle, things have come to a bit of a crawl. Many businesses are having employees work from home or not work at all and the number of confirmed cases seems to rise daily. It can be a lot different in other parts of the country.

Stanton said even in Peoria, there’s still big crowds at coffee shops and whatnot and to them, it may be “just a headline,” whereas in Seattle, it’s tremendously impacting local life.

Additionally, Stanton said, the league is keeping a close eye on the NBA, who suspended the league Wednesday night after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gorbet tested positive for the disease, and Thursday, his teammate Donovan Mitchell also tested positive. No MLB player or staff member has tested positive at this point.

“We’re not forced to make any decision, but I think the commissioner and the owners will be talking and if it’s appropriate to make a significant decision, they will,” Stanton said.

Shortly after his interview with Danny and Gallant, ESPN’s Jeff Passan tweeted that there’s a chance that MLB spring training gets suspended.

Listen to the full interview in the player below.

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