[ed. note - “A lot has changed in the last few days, and in just the last 24-48 hours. When we started this story, it was about Washington Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez’s assessment of the current start of things in West Palm Beach, FL. Things changed quickly. Major League Baseball’s memo suggesting players leave their respective Spring homes came out a day after most of the comments below from Martinez, though now it appears that the Nationals, and others in baseball, will stay put. By the time we finish writing this article (or you finish reading it), things might have changed once again...”]
THURSDAY AFTERNOON (3/12/20):
Even with the knowledge that the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic could lead to the end of Spring Training games and, potentially, postponement of the start of the regular season for all MLB teams, manager Davey Martinez said the Washington Nationals’ players were willing to take the field in Thursday’s matchup with the New York Yankees.
“They could have all said to me, ‘I don’t want to play today,’” Martinez told reporters in West Palm Beach, FL, once the end of Grapefruit League games and the postponement of at least the first two weeks of the regular season was announced by Major League Baseball.
“They all went out there ready to get their at bats and this kid [Yankees’ starter Jonathan Loaisiga] threw 97-98 MPH and they were like, ‘Woah!’ But, yeah, they all wanted to play.
“After everything that’s going on I chose to just get them two at bats and get them out of there.”
As the expected news reached players, Martinez said, he tried to keep the focus on the task at hand, finishing up the game, and then figuring out how they’ll handle the next weeks. So, what is the plan?
“While we’re here we need to continue to get these guys ready to play,” the manager said.
“We’re going to do the best we can to get them ready, keep them where they’re at and then build up from there.”
The Nationals, and the rest of the major league teams, were, of course, just weeks away from Opening Day, which was scheduled for March 26th for the defending World Series champions, and with the actual start date now up in the air, the team is going to devise some sort of plan to keep everyone sharp for when the season starts.
“We’re going to do everything we’ve done before,” Martinez said.
“For me, it’s we don’t want to take a step backwards, because we’re in a pretty good spot right now. We’re building up, but continue to build up. So we’re going to take our ground balls, we’re going to hit, I’m going talk about scheduling some scrimmage games amongst ourselves, because the pitchers still have to throw, they’ve got to face hitters. I want our hitters to face live pitching, so we’re going to try to keep them going.
“Obviously we’re not going to play a full game, but we’ll keep them going, and then as we get closer to a definitive [date] we’ll start ramping it up, but I still want us to play baseball, and for me I think it would be good to come out here and gather together, and feel like that team and get that bonding still. I know when we’re not together in the offseason I miss these guys, and they’re pretty close, so to keep them all together and get their minds off of different things, just go out and do some fun stuff will be good for all of us.”
FRIDAY AFTERNOON (3/13/20):
Major League Baseball released a memo on Friday afternoon that suggested MLB players leave their respective Spring Training homes and the MLB Players’ Association sent out a memo which, “... outlined three options for players, as Washington Post beat writer Jesse Doughtery noted in an update on the team’s thinking and planning:
“The first option is for players to remain in their respective spring training cities and keep receiving daily allowances for food and living. The second is for players to go to the home cities of their clubs. And the third is to travel to wherever they live in the offseason.”
The Nationals scheduled a team meeting for this morning to decide what they wanted to do as a team, after a number of other clubs around the league met, and decided to stay put in their respective Spring homes.
“All the players, we understand now, completely, the severity of what we’re dealing with here,” Nats’ starter Max Scherzer told reporters, including the WaPost’s Dougherty.
“And we understand why such preventive measures have to be taken for the public health and to keep that in mind to try to keep this from really being a doomsday scenario.”
Both the WaPost reporter and MASN’s Mark Zuckerman reported last night that many of the Nationals were likely to stay in West Palm Beach to continue to work out together while they wait and see how the whole situation plays out.
One Nationals staff member described this as similar to the offseason. No one is required to be anywhere, with coaches working remotely, players training at home, etc. But the spring facility is open for those who are in town. In this case, a lot of guys are already.— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) March 13, 2020
“Players from teams across the majors are making decisions on their own whether to stay in Florida and Arizona or leave, but Nationals players say they’ve been told it’s safer for them to stay together here than travel around the country or even internationally,” Zuckerman wrote, quoting one unnamed player who added that, “Players want to stay put so they aren’t risking their health during travel and so we can stay somewhat ready once we get the green light to resume the season.”
What will the Nationals finally decide? We’ll likely learn this afternoon, though many of the beat reporters are apparently headed out of West Palm Beach. We’ll update here when/if there is more info on the club’s plan...