“Obviously we’re in unprecedented times here,” Mike Rizzo told reporters when the General Manager of the 2019 World Series champion Washington Nationals spoke with members of the press for the first time since Major League Baseball made the decision to end Spring Training and postpone the start of the 2020 regular season out of concern over the growing COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic.
“From the beginning of this pandemic we’ve been working very, very closely with the public health authorities and MLB to help us navigate through these troubling times,” Rizzo said.
Though Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez initially said he thought most players would stay at the club’s facilities in West Palm Beach, Florida, to continue working out while waiting for an official announcement on when the season will begin, if it does, the club decided against that plan, with MLB and the MLB Players’ Association later telling players they could remain in their respective spring homes, return to their club’s home cities, or return to their offseason homes.
“We felt that having 300 or so people in a smaller, enclosed atmosphere here was not according to the CDC [recommendations],” Rizzo explained.
“Especially when they started limiting groups to less than 250, then it was they wanted less than 10.”
Minor league players at Spring Training were sent home, some major leaguers returned to their respective home cities, some went to Washington, D.C., and 13 stayed in West Palm Beach.
“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,” Rizzo said.
“So again, we adhere to all the stipulations and regulations that the CDC wanted us to and that MLB wanted us to.”
Now it’s just a matter of waiting for the situation to play out, so everyone knows what’s next and when it’s time to prepare for the start of the regular season, which has been pushed back to at least mid-May and will likely be delayed further.
“Guys continue to work in West Palm,” Rizzo told reporters. “We have a handful of players in D.C.
“Both of these places are staffed with trainers and medical personnel to take care of their health needs and their baseball needs, so we are fortunate in that.
“Following MLB’s guidance on a number of safety and operational fronts. The amount of conversations and communications has been unbelievable. We’re on several conference calls weekly. I alone am on two conference calls each and every week from MLB and the CDC about the virus and how to contain it and control it.
“I think that it’s to be commended the way MLB has really jumped into this thing and given us as many answers as we can.
“The Nationals and the Lerner family should be commended. They were out in front of this thing right at the beginning of it.
“We put in our own protocols even before MLB put in theirs. So, we felt that we had a fairly good handle on this thing before it even became a pandemic.”
What will the process be when teams get the word on a start date for the 2020 campaign?
“I think it depends on how long the layoff is,” Rizzo explained.
“I certainly think that there will need to be a ramp-up period, a Spring Training period, before we play any regular season games.”
When they start, how many games are actually played, if they will have a 2020 draft, all of these things are still to be determined, but when they get the word, the 2019 World Series champions are ready to defend their crown.
“We are ramped up and we have our game plan together on how to prepare the roster and the players for the marathon of the season,” Rizzo said, “albeit we don’t know exactly how long that marathon will be this year. But we will be very prepared to defend the world championship which we hold right now, can’t forget that, and that we are the defending World Champions, and we will go into this season whenever that is as the defending world champs and we take it seriously, and we feel again that we like the team that we have, and we feel that we are capable of repeating as the world champs and we’re going to have a strategy in place for player health and player preparation to get us ready for Opening Day and from Opening Day it will be our goal to win another world title for D.C.”