San Francisco catcher Buster Posey became the latest well-known player to opt out of the abbreviated 2020 season because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, joining Dodgers pitcher David Price and Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman on the sidelines.
Later Friday, the Chicago White Sox said prized pitching prospect Michael Kopech wouldn’t play this year. No reason was given for his decision.
Others like Texas slugger Joey Gallo and San Diego outfielder Tommy Pham provided good news: They can get back on the field after previously testing positive for the virus.
One week into Major League Baseball’s strange summer camp, the constant churn of rosters is one of the few constants.
Posey — a six-time All-Star and 2012 NL MVP — said his family finalized the adoption of identical twin girls this week. The babies were born prematurely and Posey said after consultations with his wife and doctor he decided skipping the season was in his family’s best interest.
“These babies, being as fragile as they are for the next four months minimum, this wasn’t ultimately that difficult a decision for me,” he said.
Arizona manager Torey Lovullo has developed a straightforward strategy to deal with his changing situation in the middle of a stress-filled pandemic. The Diamondbacks have had multiple players test positive for COVID-19, including pitcher Junior Guerra, outfielder Kole Calhoun and young prospect Seth Beer. Guerra and Beer have already been allowed to return.
“I get something at the beginning of the day or at the end of the day that says ‘This is who’s available, and this is who’s not available,’” Lovullo said. “So it’s kind of a boring answer.”
But trying to keep things simple has been paramount as MLB continues its cautious journey to a 60-game regular season that’s scheduled to begin on July 23. The first seven days of camp were anything but dull: Several players across the sport tested positive for COVID-19, results for some tests were delayed and a slow trickle of players have decided to opt out of the season, citing personal, health or family reasons.
While some have opted out of the season, others have carefully weighed the risks and decided to play. Baltimore pitcher Alex Cobb has a young family to care for, including a newborn, so he wasn’t so sure about participating in the delayed season.
But after consulting with his wife, pediatricians and doctors, Cobb joined the rebuilding Orioles.
“There’s just no guarantee that if I opted out and stayed home that we wouldn’t get it,” he said this week, wearing a mask during a Zoom call from Camden Yards. “This is a great opportunity for me personally — especially since I missed all last year — to go out and get a season in.”
In the middle of the uncertainty there have occasionally been rays of hope: Gallo returned to camp after missing the first week following a positive COVID-19 test. Padres manager Jayce Tingler said Pham has also been cleared through MLB and was due at Friday’s practice. Pham tested positive during intake and was asymptomatic.
The actual baseball part of summer camp has progressed fairly well for many teams. Marlins manager Don Mattingly said three weeks is enough time for players to get ready. Braves manager Brian Snitker agreed that on-the-field concerns had lessened.
“After a week, we’re a little farther along to where I probably thought we would be when we started,” Snitker said Friday.
The Braves endured a jolting start to camp. First baseman and team leader Freddie Freeman, premier reliever Will Smith, right-hander Touki Toussaint and infielder Pete Kozma tested positive for coronavirus. Outfielder Nick Markakis, veteran right-hander Felix Hernández and first base coach Eric Young Sr. opted out.
There is no update as to when Freeman and the other three will rejoin the team.
“I’m still not counting Freddie out,” Snitker said.