Two-time MLB All-Star and longtime Washington Nationals star Ryan Zimmerman, teammate Joe Ross, Colorado’s Ian Desmond and Arizona righthander Mike Leake became the first four known players to opt out of the 2020 Major League Baseball season due to concerns about the coronavirus.
Washington general manager Mike Rizzo said Zimmerman and Ross opted out “for the personal health and safety of themselves and their loved ones,” adding the team supports their decisions.
Zimmerman said in a statement his family situation factored into his decision. His mother is at high risk for complications from the coronavirus because she has multiple sclerosis, and he has three young children, including a newborn. As part of his announcement, the 35-year-old Zimmerman said he’s not retiring.
Ross is a 27-year-old right-hander with five years of major league experience, all with Washington — which has yet to receive approval from the District of Columbia to use Nationals Park as either a training site or home ballpark during the season.
Leake was listed on the Diamondbacks’ 60-player pool released earlier Monday, but will be moved in a later transaction. He was expected to compete for a spot in the starting rotation during the 60-game season.
“During this global pandemic, Mike and his family had many discussions about playing this season,” Leake’s agent, Danny Horwits, said in a statement Monday. “They took countless factors into consideration, many of which are personal to him and his family. After thorough consideration, he has chosen to opt out of playing in 2020. This was not an easy decision for Mike. He wishes the best of luck and health for his Diamondback teammates this season and he’s looking forward to 2021.”
The 32-year-old Leake started 10 games for Arizona after being traded from Seattle for outfielder Jose Caballero and cash in a 2019 deadline deal. Leake went 3-3 with a 4.35 ERA with Arizona and earned his first AL Gold Glove Award for his time with the Mariners.
Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen also said two players on Arizona’s 60-man roster tested positive for COVID-19, as did another player not in Arizona.
Major League Baseball is allowing players with preexisting medical conditions or compromised immune systems to opt out of the 2020 season. Leake was due $5,555,556 as the prorated share of his $15 million salary.
Also Monday, multiple teams announced positive tests for coronavirus, among them the San Francisco Giants (minor league center fielder Hunter Bishop, the 10th overall pick in the 2019 draft), the New York Mets (one unidentified player on the team’s 40-man roster, and multiple minor leaguers), the Miami Marlins (an unspecified player), and the Chicago Cubs (two staff members, but no players).
Minnesota confirmed bullpen coach Bob McClure and major league coach Bill Evers won’t be in the clubhouse at the start of this season because of health concerns. Both are in their 60s and will stay with the organization to help in altered roles.
Blue Jays appear close on approval to play
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Monday city, provincial, and federal authorities “kind of gave their approval” to Major League Baseball playing in Toronto during the pandemic, but the Blue Jays are waiting for a letter of support from the federal government.
He also said Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer, requires a few tweaks to MLB’s submitted plan to play, which health authorities have been reviewing.
Ford said he was in talks with Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro all weekend, and that the Blue Jays will arrive July 1 for training.
MLB requires an exemption from the restrictions that apply to the rest of Canada during the pandemic. Anyone entering Canada for nonessential reasons must self-isolate for 14 days, and the U.S.-Canada border remains closed to nonessential travel until at least July 21.
Dr. Andrew Morris, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto and the medical director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at Sinai-University Health Network, said it would be a bad look for the governments to turn a blind eye to public health for the purpose of resuming professional sports just as Ontario is getting its COVID-19 numbers under control.
“This sets a pretty concerning precedent by allowing people from high-prevalence areas and waiving quarantine for them,” Morris said. “We’ve been pretty cautious about opening up our border. I guess now it’s essential purposes plus baseball.”
Morris noted the NBA will play within one confined area and the NHL within two — with Toronto a favorite to be one of them, according to a Monday report by The Athletic — but baseball’s plan to have all 30 teams traveling makes it hard to imagine there won’t be a spread of the virus.
“These are decisions that are beyond public health. I really hope it doesn’t backfire,” he said.
There was talk the Blue Jays could play at their spring training facility in Dunedin, Fla., but several players and team employees tested positive for the coronavirus and the complex was shuttered.
Brooklyn’s Jordan, Dinwiddie contract COVID
Both DeAndre Jordan and Spencer Dinwiddie have tested positive for the coronavirus, with Jordan announcing on social media he wouldn’t play for the Brooklyn Nets during the NBA’s restart in Orlando and Dinwiddie strongly considering the same.
“I flew private to return to New York, passed multiple COVID-19 tests over my first several days in New York and was able to participate in a couple practices within the first week,” Dinwiddie told The Athletic. “Originally, we were supposed to be one of the teams to enter into the Orlando bubble early, but training camp got switched back to New York and unfortunately I am now positive.”
From ESPN, the Portland Trail Blazers plan to sign guard Jaylen Adams, the runner-up for this season’s G-League MVP award, to replace Trevor Ariza, who is opting against playing the rest of the season. Brooklyn will sign a similar substitute player for Jordan, per sources.
NHL: 26 coronavirus cases in three weeks
The National Hockey League says a total of 26 players have reported testing positive for the new coronavirus since voluntary workouts began June 8.
Monday’s update includes four additional cases among those tested at team facilities, to go along with the 11 announced June 19. The league says it’s aware of 11 other players testing positive outside the voluntary workout protocol.
The NHL said more than 250 players who worked out at team facilities were administered more than 1,450 COVID-19 tests.
The league and players are in the final stages of agreeing to resume the season. Training camps can open as early as July 10 if an agreement on testing, health and safety protocols and “hub” cities to host the games can be reached.
The Red Wings plan to hold their training camp for the 2020-21 NHL season at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, executive vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced. The team usually trains in Traverse City, Mich.; it will also not hold its annual NHL Prospect Tournament there until 2021.
English latest PGA Tour positive test
Harris English became the fifth PGA Tour player to test positive for the coronavirus, doing so as part of the pre-tournament screening process at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit. English did not play last week at the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Conn.
English, who has risen to No. 27 in the FedEx Cup, says in a statement he feels healthy and supports the tour’s additional policy of not letting anyone at Detroit Golf Club until the test results were back. Previously, a player could practice but not enter the clubhouse while waiting on the results.
Austin Peay workouts shuttered due to spread
Austin Peay suspended voluntary workouts and closed its facilities Saturday after 11 positive tests for the coronavirus among its athletes. The FCS-level school in Clarksville, Tenn., did not identify the sports involved.
Athletic director Gerald Harrison said in a statement Monday that the positive tests are regrettable, but procedures put in place worked as expected. That includes isolating those who tested positive, along with people at risk through contract tracing in self-quarantine, as well as cleaning and disinfecting its facilities.
Also Monday, Arizona announced it will pause bringing additional athletes back to campus for voluntary workouts as a precaution amid a massive surge of coronavirus cases in the state. The school had one positive test among 83 student-athletes who had already returned to campus for voluntary workouts.
NFL teams offering refunds
The NFL’s Chicago Bears are offering full refunds to season ticket holders because of the COVID-19 pandemic, while the New York Jets and Houston Texans are offering refunds or payment deferrals.
Season-ticket holders who choose refunds will be able to renew their seats for the 2021 season, the teams said. The Jets also are deferring season ticket payments for July, as they have done each of the last three months, as well as the ability to defer PSL payments.
WNBA coach cites high risk, skipping season
Dan Hughes will not coach the Seattle Storm during the 2020 WNBA season over concerns about the 65-year-old’s risk for severe illness if he were to test positive for COVID-19. He had surgery last year to remove a cancerous tumor from his digestive tract; Gary Kloppenburg will again serve as interim coach, as he did during Hughes’s recovery.
The WNBA is set to begin its season in late July with all teams playing in Florida.
NASCAR black flags postseason parties
NASCAR canceled its Champion’s Week and Cup Series awards scheduled for early December in Nashville, citing the uncertainty from the pandemic and its impact on the industry. NASCAR moved Champion’s Week to Nashville in 2019 from Las Vegas.
NASCAR still plans to celebrate its champions from the Xfinity Series to the truck series and promises details to come. And NASCAR says the series looks forward to returning to Nashville in 2021.
Celtics’ Walker among trainers for online camp
Kemba Walker and fellow NBA All-Star Trae Young, plus UConn legends and women’s Olympians Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart, will be coaches for an online basketball camp set up by former NBA player and longtime TNT basketball studio analyst Kenny Smith in response to coronavirus restrictions.
Two-time NBA All-Star Victor Oladipo and WNBA star Brittney Griner are also set to work the all-ages “Jet Academy,” with more participants to be announced. The camps begin July 20 at jetacademycamp.com; schedule details and pricing are available on the website.
Smith has run a camp for 25 years in North Carolina, where he played collegiately. But camps have been limited or canceled in many locations because of rules limiting sizes of gatherings because of the virus.