Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke doesn’t have a lot of concern about Friday, when baseball returns in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. He doesn’t want to contract the virus and is taking it seriously, but Roenicke never considered not managing the 2020 season.
“I think the protocols that we put into place, I think we covered as much as we think we can cover,” Roenicke said Monday on a Zoom call. “It’s always uncomfortable. It was uncomfortable when I was home in California. Any time I left the house it was uncomfortable. Our people, I know, have put so much into place, myself, all the players and coaches, that, we feel pretty good coming in.”
Roenicke is 63 years old, an age considered high risk as it relates to the coronavirus. The Minnesota Twins, for instance, will not allow 60-plus Bob McClure and Bill Evers to coach this season as a precaution. Roenicke, who was awaiting results from a Monday COVID-19 test when he spoke, has been in contact with the Red Sox team doctors and believes he can navigate the pandemic.
“I still don’t feel I’m old, I guess,” Roenicke said in a lighthearted tone. “I feel good health-wise. My doctors all say I’m healthy. I feel good that way. But, obviously, it’s a concern because you don’t know how it affects other people. Whether you’re 20 years old or whether you’re 63 as I am, you still have to be concerned with trying to stay away from it.”
Three players — Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross, and Arizona’s Mike Leake — have opted out of playing the 2020 season due to coronavirus concerns.
“I don’t know any of our guys that are on the fence about playing,” Roenicke said. “They’ve told me they are ready to go. Is there a couple of guys that are concerned? Yes. But as far as I know, what they told me today, and yesterday and the day before, I expect everybody to come in.”
The Red Sox are still trying to hash out what their “spring” training schedule will look like. The team can play up to three exhibition games, though Roenicke said they would probably play one or two. Assistant general manager Eddie Romero contacted some teams regarding a potential scrimmage, however, the Sox do have some reluctance to travel before they really have to.
Exhibition games or not, Roenicke said, the Sox will play intrasquad contests after the fifth or sixth day of camp and continue them through the remainder.
The Red Sox intend to add to their roster, but want to get through their initial wave of testing before growing their potentially 60-player pool past the 47 they announced on Sunday afternoon.
“We think the testing part is critical to this,” Roenicke said. “If we all get through this testing part clean, and we don’t have some cases — or at least not many — then they feel like they can proceed with how we’re going go with those spots.”
With no word yet on their seasons, Red Sox minor leaguers risk losing a year of development. Presumably, some of their top prospects will be added to the list even if they aren’t quite ready for the majors.
“I know there are a couple of guys that I talk about that I got to see in spring training that I thought, ‘These are great looking players,' " Roenicke said. “Those are guys that I would like to be able to play and get experience this year, and they’re not set back for next year.”
Jeter Downs, Triston Casas, Bryan Mata, Tanner Houck, Jarren Duran, Jay Groome, and Thad Ward were all left off the initial roster, but are potential additions due to their long-term potential.
Still an open discussion
The Sox still have two decisions to make at the end of their rotation, and Roenicke said they’re still looking at an opener as their fifth starter. To name a few, Brian Johnson, Colten Brewer, and Ryan Weber all were candidates back in March.
”We have a few guys in camp that can go multiple innings who fit that role well,” he said. “I think in-house, what we have here will fit that.”
Roenicke is confident the pitching staff as a whole will be ready for the reboot.
“I feel good about the starting pitchers,” he said. “They’ve done a really good job of not just throwing a simple bullpen, but of throwing a three- or four-inning bullpen. I like where the relievers have been. They have been throwing bullpens.”
On days pitchers aren’t throwing, they will get their work in at the team’s second site, Boston College.
Catcher Jonathan Lucroy is expected to be with the team Thursday. His contract is being reworked; Lucroy initially signed a minor league deal which allowed him to opt-out at the end of the team’s initial spring training. … The Sox announced the signings of three non-drafted free agents: Catcher Juan Montero, and right-handed pitchers Casey Cobb and Henry Nunez. That makes 14 non-drafted free agents since the conclusion of this year’s draft.