First things first: No Washington Nationals players have shown signs of or been tested for the COVID-19/coronavirus. That’s good news, obviously.
“We’re very fortunate here with the Nationals,” GM Mike Rizzo said in a conference call with reporters this morning, “...that we’ve had no players show any symptoms of the coronavirus, to the point where they would suggest any testing.
“We’ve had no players tested, and these players are in constant, direct contact with our medical teams on a daily basis.”
Since the baseball world shut down back on March 12th, following Major League Baseball’s decision to end Spring Training and postpone the start of the 2020 campaign, a number of players have gone home to D.C. or their respective home cities, while some other players have remained at the club’s facilities in West Palm Beach, FL to continue working out while they wait for word on when the season might actually begin.
“Currently we have a handful of players who’ve remained in West Palm,” Rizzo explained.
#Nats' GM Mike Rizzo said that after decisions were made following end of Grapefruit League games, delayed start of the season, the #Nationals currently have, "13 [players] here in [West Palm Beach], we have 3 in D.C., and the rest are at their personal homes.”— federalbaseball (@federalbaseball) March 20, 2020
“Thirteen players have remained in West Palm Beach, at the facility,” he clarified.
“There are no formal structured workouts, but they are able to get their workouts in in small, isolated groups in accordance with MLB protocol and [Centers for Disease Control] CDC.”
While they wait for further word from Major League Baseball on how things will proceed in the weeks and months to come, Rizzo said, the Nationals are doing what they can to keep everyone safe while also preparing to play when and if baseball returns.
“There are still a lot of unknowns,” the GM acknowledged. “Our leadership team is working tirelessly to make sure our organization is handling this situation the best we can. It’s a very, very fluid situation.
“This thing is not in the General Manager’s manual. So these are very, very fluid times and they are very uncertain times, so suffice it to say, we are all about caring for our players, our staff, and their families to make sure that we do what we’re supposed to do and be good citizens and take care of each other.”
How were decisions made as to where players would go or whether or not they would stay in West Palm Beach once MLB decided to shut things down?
“First of all, we’re in Palm Beach County, there have been a handful of positive tests here,” Rizzo said.
“It’s an older community so we really have to abide by all the CDC recommendations and MLB’s recommendations, and I think that you’ll see this city has done a really good job in doing that.
“We felt that having 300 or so people in a smaller, enclosed atmosphere here was not according to the CDC, especially when they started limiting groups to less than 250.
“Then it was they wanted less than 10, and we want these things staggered. We felt that it was much more prudent and healthy for us to send home the 150 or so minor leaguers, get them to a safer environment in their homes where they can continue to socially isolate and do what they’re supposed to do.
#Nats' GM Mike Rizzo on how the #Nationals will get ready for the 2020 season once they know a firm date for when/if it will start: pic.twitter.com/eF0enJXLBY— federalbaseball (@federalbaseball) March 20, 2020
“Obviously, our 40-Man roster guys, there are rules and regulations built into the CBA that allows them to work in a safe environment both here in West Palm, go to their personal homes or go to Washington, D.C. and continue their workouts. So again, we adhere to all the stipulations and regulations that the CDC wanted us to and that MLB wanted us to.”
While they wait, Rizzo explained, the Nationals are doing what they can to prepare for the eventual start of the season, assuming it does happen at some point, having worked for a few weeks this Spring to get ready for the long, marathon of a big league campaign before things were halted.
“We’re going to be fully ready when we’re asked to be ready,” Rizzo said. “Obviously the ramping up of pitchers and players in a safe manner is of the utmost importance to us.
“There’s a fine line and a delicate balance that we have to strike between having them ready on Opening Day whenever that is, and ramping them up to get to that point.
“We’ll have in place our protocol and our set of different criteria to get to them to that point.”
“When Opening Day is announced and decided upon we’ll work our schedules back in a way to make sure that we’re fully ready to go,” Rizzo added.
How are the players handling the abrupt end to Spring Training and the interruption of their preparation for the 2020 campaign?
“I think mentally they handle it by getting their workouts in, keeping their routine,” Rizzo said. “Obviously, they are very routine-oriented people. They like being on a schedule.
“I think that they are still very much on a routine to prepare themselves for Opening Day.
“The uncertainty is how do you get ready for a date that you don’t know is coming.
“What we’ve asked them to do is for pitchers to keep their arms in shape, return to their offseason throwing programs so we can ramp up quicker as Spring Training starts as a prelude to the Opening Day, whenever that is, and we’ve set forth a personal workout baseball plan for all our players to hit the ground running when they do get to camp so we should be ready to expedite a Spring Training atmosphere quicker than the norm because we’ve already had a couple of weeks of Spring Training. We’re trying to keep them at that level that they left camp here and hopefully we can continue so that would be our step-off portion when Spring Training starts as a prelude to Opening Day.”