Drayer: Mariners, like rest of MLB, adjusting to life in a holding pattern
For the first time since pitchers and catchers reported Feb. 12, Mariners manager Scott Servais woke up not having plans of meetings, drills, bullpens, lineups and such on his mind. Instead it was day one of what will evolve over the next week or so as the new normal in baseball.
“There was a lot less anxiety in the morning,” he said referring to getting ready for a typical baseball day. “Obviously this is uncharted territory for baseball or anything our country has ever gone through before. We just have to be patient, continue to communicate best we can with our players so they have information for their families and whatnot. It is what it is. We’ve got to deal with it. Everybody else is trying to do the best that they can just as we are.”
While the definitive move to shut down spring and delay the start of the season was made Thursday, the Mariners and the rest of teams are in a holding pattern as they wait to learn what comes next.
MLB and the MLBPA are meeting to decide what exactly that is. Are players to stay with their teams? Do structured workouts continue? Can players return home and resume their workouts there?
The recommendation from MLB is that players stay in their spring training camps and not travel. This is the Mariners’ preference as well, as stated by CEO John Stanton Thursday.
Player, staff and community safety are the priority and to that end, the Mariners are taking it a step further. There are no organized activities at the field this weekend. Players are able to come in for workouts or throwing if they desire but rather than have the camp open to the 200-plus number of players you normally would see at the complex when camp is in full swing, they will have the players do so in groups of 20-25 as to limit exposure of the number of people in the building at the same time. As they get more information from MLB and MLBPA, they will adjust.
“This is just the beginning,” said Servais. “We have to be really cautious, make good decisions and educate our players the best we can.”
If the decision is made for teams to stay together at their spring training sites, then more formal workout plans will be made with the tricky part being they still don’t know when they will play. While opening day has been pushed back to April 9, the belief by many is the season will not resume until May 1 at the earliest. With major cities including Seattle and Chicago banning crowds until late April or early May, this seems to make sense.
“We don’t want to lose a lot of momentum, but we don’t want to build them too quickly,” said Servais. “If we stay, we will keep them at the level they are at.”
From the player’s perspective, it is good to have at least some answers after a week of hearing rumblings of what could happen. Even for Justin Dunn, whose father works for the New York Department of Health and kept him up to date on the latest with the coronavirus situation, the news still was jarring.
“Yesterday, it felt like a movie. Honestly it hasn’t felt real,” he said. “Taijuan (Walker) and I were actually throwing bullpens and skip (Servais) walked over and said ‘shut it down.’ You never really get told to shut a (bullpen) down.”
The eye opener for Dunn was what happened the night before.
“To see what happened in the league and you realize how quickly it can spread within the league, one person getting it, now they are all touching the same ball, touching the same puck, you realize that it is probably just the best thing for everybody in that situation to kind of shut it down, keep things in control and keep everybody’s best interest at heart. In a way I saw this coming but you never really think it’s real until it happens,” Dunn said.
A sobering situation for everyone, but for Dunn there at least is baseball. His perked up when he talked about what was next.
“I am a little excited for it,” he said. “I can kind of go back into rebuild phase, restore the arm, get a little extra boost. You can step off the gas a little bit and go back into a stretch out phase, rebuild the strength and get even more volume in throwing-wise without putting crazy high intensity on the arm. I think it could be a good thing and I am excited to see how it is going to play out.”
A good distraction and perhaps a good approach in an uncertain time for a young player. Right now, the Mariners and baseball are trying to determine what will be the correct approach that will enable them better to return and perhaps be that needed distraction in the hopefully not too distant future.
“When John Stanton came down and addressed the team on the delay of the start of the season, it was pretty surreal,” Servais said. “It was a day not just in baseball, but all over our country. With the number of live sporting events that have been shut down, a lot of people are impacted, but that is not the important thing here. The important thing is we do the right thing for everybody in our country and certainly in Seattle where it has been hit really, really hard. You see the number of people who are struggling, dealing with the situation healthwise, but what it has done to the economy. And it really affects everybody so, baseball is really just a very, very minute part of it. And we will adjust and we will be back. It’s just got to be at the right time.”