clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Washington Nationals’ Spring Training 2.0 to start in Nationals Park today: Baseball is back-ish...

They’re going to try to play baseball in empty parks during an ongoing pandemic, what could go wrong?

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Eaton was on the radio with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Chad Dukes earlier this week when he first heard the news that his Washington Nationals teammates, Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross, were opting out of playing in the 60-game, 2020 MLB campaign, which is ambitiously scheduled to get started in about three weeks ... during an ongoing pandemic.

“Well, there you go,” Eaton said. “I didn’t know anything about Joe. I know Zim, like I said, has been on the fence. Zim, basically, has given his whole life basically to the Washington Nationals. So like I said, it’s a tough situation. He’s got a newborn. He’s got a lot of stuff going on at the house. So like I said, hopefully we’ll have him back if I’m back next year of course with Joe.

“You don’t know the circumstances,” Eaton added. “You don’t know what may or may not be going on, and like I said, hopefully they stay healthy, and next year, depending on everyone’s contract situations hopefully they come back healthy and ready to go.”

Zimmerman, 35, and, as Eaton noted, a 15-year veteran who’s played all fifteen seasons in D.C., tested free agency this winter, before he signed up for a 16th (on a 1-year/$2M deal), after helping the club win the 2019 World Series championship last October.

“After a great deal of thought and given my family circumstances — three young children, including a newborn, and a mother at high risk,” Zimmerman wrote in a statement that his representatives released, “I have decided not to participate in the 2020 season.”

Zimmerman, who was clear he’s not retiring, said given the unique circumstances of trying to play during an ongoing pandemic, he made the decision that he thought, “is the best for me and my family, and I truly appreciate the organization’s understanding and support.”

Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo offered his unequivocal support for both Zimmerman and Ross and the decisions they made.

Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross have decided not to participate in the 2020 season for the personal health and safety of themselves and their loved ones,” Rizzo said in a press release shared by the team.

“We are one hundred percent supportive of their decision to not play this year. We will miss their presence in the clubhouse and their contributions on the field.”

Max Scherzer, who, not surprisingly, is all in on playing, told NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas that he did, however, understand the decisions his teammates made.

“I respect their decisions,” Scherzer said. “This is a personal decision for everybody. I understand where they are coming from. So, at the end of the day, I get it. This is a nasty thing that’s going around. For some people, the comfort level is just not there and I respect it. For the guys who do choose [to play], that’s great. And we’ll just have the team go forward and try to win this year.”

Nats’ closer Sean Doolittle, who is in D.C., and was tested for the coronavirus along with his teammates yesterday as they prepare for the first workouts of Spring Training 2.0, told ABC 7’s Scott Abraham he was leaning towards playing but still weighing the decision as players are reporting to Nationals Park for the first official workouts today.

So has he decided to play?

“You know what, not entirely. I’m here, so I’m very much leaning toward playing,” Doolittle said on Wednesday.

His wife, Eireann Dolan, who has publicly discussed her personal medical history dealing with a chronic lung condition, is a high-risk family member, but the reliever worked hard this Spring to stay in shape should baseball return.

“That’s the way that I prepared mentally and physically during the break. My wife and I we think we came up with a plan for her to stay with some family in the area so that she is relatively close should anything happen — at least she won’t be halfway across the country, but these are the conversations that a lot of players have been having with their families and trying to figure out if there’s a way they can make it work for them and come to peace with it.”

“I’m super-excited to be back,” he added at another point in the interview, “... and I’m really looking forward to seeing my teammates, but you know, just the situation we’re in with the pandemic and how it’s affecting other cities around the country, cities that major league baseball is going to be playing in — there’s still a lot that we kind of have to figure out. We don’t have a lot of time to figure it out in.”

“Are you convinced that baseball is going to be able to work in this climate?” Abraham asked.

“No,” Doolittle said. “No I’m not. I think just the thing is we don’t know. There’s so much we don’t know.”