MLB endures eventful week of opt outs, positive tests and player concerns

By Sports Desk July 09, 2020

It was damning enough for MLB to learn that accomplished players such as David Price, Nick Markakis and Ian Desmond have decided to sit out the pandemic-delayed 2020 season. Even more concerning is that three-time MVP Mike Trout is considering it.

While Trout said he still expects to play this season, he remains concerned about playing during a global pandemic as he and his wife, Jessica, expect their first child in August.

"Honestly, I still don't feel that comfortable," Trout said. "If I test positive, I talked to doctors and they said I couldn't see the baby for 14 days or Jess can't see the baby for 14 days if she's positive, we're going to be upset.

"I think the biggest issue is keeping Jess safe, the baby safe, obviously me. Coming to the field every day getting tested is huge. I have to be really cautious."

Trout said he has spoken to Angels manager Joe Maddon and general manager Billy Eppler as he tries to figure out what is best for himself and his family. The superstar center fielder is keeping his options open, including sitting out until the baby arrives.

"There's so much buried information I've encouraged everyone to think for themselves," Maddon said. "I'm appealing to our guys to be as informed as they can and then arrive at their own truth. Tell me what they feel."

There is simply no getting around the fact that the 2020 season will be unlike another. Going from 162 games to 60 is clearly the biggest difference and how that will affect players' performances and what role injuries will play in a condensed season remains to be seen. 

For a team like the Angels where Trout is their whole universe, playing without him for an entire season would be catastrophic. He is also a terrific ambassador for baseball as the sport's brightest star and his potential absence would leave a gaping void.

San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey is another marquee player that has said he is considering sitting out the season due to health and safety concerns.

"I think there's still some reservation on my end as well," Posey said. "I want to see how things progress here over the next couple weeks. It would be a little bit maybe silly or naive not to gauge what's going on around you, and not only around here but paying attention to what's happening in different parts of the country."

While not nearly the offensive force that Trout is, Posey is the most recognisable name on a Giants team that has endured three consecutive losing seasons. A baseball season without him would be another detriment for 2020.

A handful of players have already tested positive for COVID-19, with Boston Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, New York Yankees infielder DJ LeMahieu and Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman among the biggest names.

Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said he intended to have Rodriguez start on opening day against the Orioles on July 24, but that is now in jeopardy. Boston are already without ace Chris Sale for the season after he underwent Tommy John surgery, so missing Rodriguez for any length of time would be a huge problem.

Players that test positive must first quarantine for two weeks and then must be free of symptoms and test negative twice before rejoining their clubs.

Some tests have revealed "pending" or inconclusive results, forcing teams to keep those players out of full-team workouts – even if a player has not had a positive test.

"We have to be overly cautious," Roenicke said.

The Giants had to cancel practice on Tuesday after their testing results from Saturday were held up. All the tests – for players and staff – eventually came back negative and the team resumed workouts on Wednesday.

Houston Astros star Alex Bregman was unable to work out with the team on Wednesday because his test results were delayed.

"He's probably frustrated because I know how hard Alex works and how dedicated he is to getting off to a good start," Astros manager Dusty Baker said. "There's nothing we can do about it."

Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo was not pleased that his team had to cancel workouts on Monday due to testing delays.

"Major League Baseball needs to work quickly to resolve issues with their process and their lab," Rizzo said. "Otherwise, summer camp and the 2020 season are at risk."

MLB responded by saying there were unforeseen delays on the test results due to the July 4 holiday weekend.

"We have addressed the delays caused by the holiday weekend and do not expect a recurrence," MLB said in a statement.

Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant also took issue with MLB's testing protocols.

"What we agreed to was testing every other day, and we've had guys who showed up on Sunday and hadn't got tested until seven days later," he said. "And you don't get the results until two days later. That's nine days without knowing.

"If we want this to succeed, we have to figure this out. I wanted to play this year because I thought it would be safe. Honestly, I don't really feel that."

Nobody would suggest missing a workout or two now would affect a team's performance in August or September but testing delays during the season could lead to unfair advantages.

Perhaps the team with the biggest advantage will be the one that can avoid the virus by remaining disciplined and keeping their complete roster intact. Players will be expected to abide by a whole host of rules this season and that could prove challenging playing virtually every day for two months.

"This is going to be tough for everybody," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "You've got to be mentally strong."

Amid all the talk of testing and players concerned for their health and safety, MLB released the 60-game schedule for the abbreviated season without fans on Monday.

Opening day on July 23 features Gerrit Cole and the Yankees visiting the defending champion Nationals in the first game before Mookie Betts makes his Los Angeles Dodgers debut against the rival Giants in the nightcap.

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