Domain Registration

‘Ready to go:’ MLB players optimistic 2021 season will start on time despite COVID-19 concerns

  • January 14, 2021

spring training is scheduled to start.

They cautiously believe they can pull off a full 162-game season, their hopes buoyed by lessons learned from the shortened 2020 season, but also wary that the coronavirus could alter those plans.

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher David Price, baseball’s biggest star to opt out last season with COVID-19 concerns, forfeiting $11.9 million, told USA TODAY Sports that he plans to play in 2021.

“I think baseball did a pretty good job with it last year, being able to limit the cases that spread,’’ said Price, one of nearly 50 current and former players who attended the Players Alliance tour stop in Phoenix. “They proved it can work. I’m sure they learned a lot from last year, and I look forward to seeing what kind of changes they make and plan on doing going forward.

 “We’ll see what happens over the next month, but my plan is to be there for the start of spring training.’’

Cody Bellinger, left, and David Price assist in a pop-up food pantry hosted by the Players Alliance in Phoenix.

Commissioner Rob Manfred informed the clubs Monday to prepare for the start of spring training on time, with a Feb. 17 reporting date, and a full 162-game season with opening day on April 1. Yet, the plans are subject to change.

MLB, which preferred to delay the season by a month, and the players union, which rejected any delay without a full season of pay, still are negotiating health and safety protocols for players and staff members.

Yet, after playing a 60-game season during the pandemic, and learning how to adapt to the protocols and rules, players are optimistic they’ll be able to start Feb. 17 and play through the World Series in October without interruptions.

“Personally, I don’t have a ton of apprehension,’’ Washington Nationals reliever Daniel Hudson said. “I know things are pretty bad right now, but at the same time, we got through last season and I feel like we can get through this season. I feel guys know what to expect, and if we have to do similar to what we did last year as far as protocols, we can do it.

“I think a lot of guys are ready to go.’’

MLB: Teams should plan for spring training to start on time

2021 SEASON: Will MLB have fans in the stands? New guidelines offer hope.

There were 43 games postponed last season, impacting 16 teams, with outbreaks on the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals. Yet, they were able to play the final two weeks of the regular season and the entire postseason without any disruptions.

Players also are encouraged that the NFL was able to complete its regular season, with the NBA and NHL seasons now taking place for the first time without a bubble.

“I definitely think guys are comfortable and have the expectation of what’s going to be in front of us going into the spring training,’’ outfielder Kevin Pillar said. “When we were shut down last year and guys were asked to come back for the second spring training, we didn’t really know what we were getting into. Now we know. The blueprint is out there for successfully getting through a season.

“You look at the NBA and NHL going through for the first time, and some of the problems they had, but we have an advantage over them having gone through it already. We were kind of the guinea pigs, and the fact we already went through it gives us a leg up on the other sports.’’

The trouble, of course, is that the pandemic continues to ravage the country. Arizona, the home of 15 teams in spring training, leads the nation for the highest rate of new cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cactus League officials would prefer starting the spring schedule a month later.

“I know how bad the COVID is, especially here in Arizona,’’ said Cole Tucker of the Pittsburgh Pirates, one of many players who have not put down a spring-training housing deposit in the event of a delay. “I’m still optimistic we can start on time, but maybe that’s the kid in me. But football is doing it. Basketball is doing it. And we did it last year.

“We finished the season, there was a World Series, and hopefully we can do that again this year as more people are getting vaccinated.’’

The key, once again, the players say, is trusting one another, knowing that if you’re careless, you not only are putting yourself in danger but also your teammates.

“The only way we’re going to stop (COVID-19) is by caring about others and not just ourselves,’’ New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor said Monday. “And people do. People care about others. At some point they’re like, ‘I’ll be fine. I won’t get sick.’

“You probably won’t get hit as hard, but somebody else will.’’

The difference this time is that fans will be part of the equation. They’re expected to return at some point of the season with tickets being sold in pods spaced six feet apart from one another. The fans will be socially distanced in the ballparks, but MLB is not mandating that they have proof of vaccinations or temperature checks when entering the ballparks.

“The best thing will be having fans back,’’ Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger said. “I’m so excited about that. I know when we played Atlanta and Tampa Bay in Texas (during the NLCS and World Series), it was so much better.

“Man, you will never, ever, take fans for granted again. You realize how much they impact the game. How much fun they make the game.

“We’re all just looking forward to getting back to normal again.’’

Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale

Article source: http://rssfeeds.usatoday.com/~/641601718/0/usatodaycomsports-topstories~Ready-to-go-MLB-players-optimistic-season-will-start-on-time-despite-COVID-concerns/

Related News

Search

Find best hotel offers