With the Major League Baseball schedule on hold following the decision Thursday to suspend spring training and delay the start of the 2020 regular season at least two weeks as the country seeks to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Dodgers intend on proceeding as close to normal as possible.
Manager Dave Roberts said the club will keep its doors open at Camelback Ranch, their spring training home in Arizona, for players until further notice. They will provide food for players and personnel. The training and coaching staffs will report to work and players will attempt to stay in shape in preparation for the season.
Roberts maintained players are not required to stick around and can go home, but added that he expects most — if not all — players to remain with the team. MLB and union leaders are scheduled to meet Friday to discuss issues related to player concerns.
The Dodgers had their two split-squad games canceled Thursday because of rain before MLB announced its decision to suspend operations.
“They certainly have that option, to leave,” Roberts said. “It’s certainly not a mandate. It’s an option. Our guys are pretty adamant of wanting to stick around because it’s only two weeks.”
The two-week delay, however, is not certain. In a statement, MLB said it has been preparing a “variety of contingency plans” and will “announce the effects on the schedule at an appropriate time.”
The start of the season could be pushed back further. In Illinois, home of the Chicago Cubs and White Sox, Gov. J.B. Pritzker banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people in the state until May 1. On Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom recommended banning gatherings or 250 or more through the end of March in California.
If the delay is limited to two weeks, opening day would take place April 9. The Dodgers would lose 12 games from their original schedule — six against the San Francisco Giants, three against the Colorado Rockies, and three against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Roberts said he suspects the league would just pick up the original schedule whenever the season starts and, ideally, tack on the postponed games to the end of the schedule. The Dodgers were scheduled to conclude a four-game series in St. Louis on April 9.
On Wednesday, the Dodgers pulled their scouts off the road. The organization also canceled their international scouting meetings scheduled for next week.
In the meantime, Roberts said playing intrasquad games is on the table with the minor league season also delayed and minor leaguers available to participate. He said pitchers will be the most difficult to handle because starters require building arm strength to go deep into games once the season begins. Roberts said it will be important for pitchers to continue throwing regularly at curtailed volumes until MLB announces a more fixed schedule.
“The tricky part is players will argue that spring training itself is too long,” Roberts said. “Now you’re adding two weeks on. … Eight weeks is a lot to ask so I think that you got to understand and back off a little bit to keep guys engaged and focused but then understand that it’s two weeks later. So, it’s a balance.”