Trying to find out the status of a baseball player coming back from an ankle injury will definitely be easier than learning whether someone tested positive for the coronavirus.
Major League Baseball said Tuesday that a team will not specifically announce a COVID-19 injured list placement for a player who is removed from the club after testing positive, just an IL trip.
MLB’s operations manual says a positive test, exhibiting symptoms that require isolation for additional assessment or exposure to someone who has had the virus, are cause for placement on the new COVID-19 IL.
“It would be a speculating circumstance,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told media during a conference call.
Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement states that for any medical condition not related to employment “a club may disclose only the fact that a medical condition is preventing the player from rendering services to the club and the anticipated length of the player’s absence from the club.”
Cashman noted the situation continues to evolve as MLB and the players’ union continue discussions. Testing of players and staff will begin Wednesday as they report to their teams to resume workouts. They will be tested once every two days.
Last week, Charlie Blackmon of the Rockies became the first Major League Baseball player known to have tested positive. According to reports, the All-Star outfielder was one of three Colorado players to have a positive test.
Numerous other teams have said they have players who have tested positive for the virus without identifying any of them. The Phillies announced seven, while the Tigers said one player who was living in Florida but not working out at the team’s spring training facilities in Lakeland also tested positive.
Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said a few players have tested positive but declined to specify how many. Several Blue Jays players and staff members have also tested positive.
Baltimore general manager Mike Elias said the Orioles have had no reported cases and that no one on the team has decided against playing in the shortened season.
GM hopes for Yankees’ health
Given an extra 3½ months for their brittle stars to heal, the New York Yankees will closely monitor the conditioning of Aaron Judge, James Paxton, Aaron Hicks, and Giancarlo Stanton ahead of a season unlike any other.
“We want these players to withstand a 60-game sprint over a 66-day schedule,” Cashman said Tuesday on the eve of the first arrivals for “spring” training 2.0, already dubbed summer camp in Major League Baseball’s marketing deal.
Judge did not play in any exhibition games due to discomfort in his right pectoral muscle and shoulder that he felt when swinging. The Yankees said March 6 that the right fielder had a stress fracture to his first right rib, an injury likely dating from a diving catch late last season. Judge later said he had a collapsed lung.
Paxton had surgery Feb. 5 to repair a herniated disk in his back and to remove a peridiscal cyst. The left-hander exited his final regular-season start, at Texas on Sept. 27, after one inning with what the Yankees said was a tight left glute, then returned for three postseason starts.
Hicks, a switch-hitting center fielder, is recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on Oct. 31.
Stanton strained his right calf during defensive drills on Feb. 26. Cashman said he was confident Stanton could be a designated hitter but was not sure whether Stanton could play left field.
New York placed a big league record 30 players on the injured list a total of 39 times last season, then overhauled its training and conditioning staff.
“Ultimately, we’re in it to win it,” Cashman said, “and I think everybody else should be feeling the same way. And especially in a shortened season, I think it heightens the ability for anybody to really take a shot at the title. And so, therefore, how do they respond to this challenge remains to be seen, but I think it’s certainly going to open it up for a lot of opportunities for teams to take advantage of.”
Top two picks sign first contracts
Spencer Torkelson, the No. 1 overall draft pick, and the Tigers agreed to a minor league contract, and the team said the infielder will join its player pool for this abbreviated season.
Torkelson’s deal includes an $8,416,300 is a signing bonus, which is $1,000 above slot value, and a $2,500 contingent bonus. He is to receive $100,000 within 30 days of the deal’s approval by Major League Baseball, and 50 percent of the rest on each July 1 in 2021 and 2022.
Detroit had the top pick for the second time in three years after drafting righthander Casey Mize in 2018.
Undrafted out of high school, Torkelson hit 54 home runs at Arizona State. The Tigers took the slugging first baseman with the top pick, then said they intended to try him at third.
The No. 2 overall pick, oOutfielder Heston Kjerstad agreed to a minor league contract with the Baltimore Orioles that includes a $5.2 million signing bonus, well below the slot value of $7,789,900.
“Just the beginning of a new journey! Excited to be an Oriole!” Kjerstad wrote on Twitter.
Kjerstad batted .448 with six homers and 20 RBIs over 16 games as a junior with Arkansas this year before the season was cut short by the pandemic. He started every game in right field and had at least one hit in each outing.
On the end of the career spectrum, sinkerballing reliever Jared Hughes, who turns 35 on July 4, agreed to a $700,000, one-year contract with the Mets, a deal that amounts to $259,259 in prorated pay over the 60-game season.
Hughes can earn an additional $300,000 for days on the active roster: $50,000 each for 10 and 30, and $100,000 apiece for 45 and 60. The roster bonuses would not be prorated.
He had a 6.35 ERA over five appearances and 5⅔ innings during spring training with Houston and was released March 19, a week after the exhibition season was stopped by the coronavirus pandemic. If he had been added to Houston’s 40-man roster, he would have received a one-year contract with a salary of $1.5 million while in the majors and $150,000 in the minors.
Rockies GM backs Desmond
Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich says he supports Ian Desmond’s decision to sit out the 2020 season to focus on his young family and help rejuvenate youth baseball in his hometown in Florida.
Bridich says he had a pair of recent conversations with the 34-year-old outfielder who announced his decision in a lengthy and heartfelt Instagram post Monday night.
Desmond wrote that the “COVID-19 pandemic has made this baseball season one that is a risk I am not comfortable taking.” The biracial slugger also mentioned a myriad of issues within baseball, including sexism, homophobia and socioeconomic concerns, as well as the racial reckoning that emerged after George Floyd’s death while in police custody in Minneapolis sparked protests around the world.
“The conversations with Ian felt the exact same that his written words feel to me,” Bridich said, “which is from the heart and honest . . . I did not know that he was going to write something as thoughtful and as comprehensive as (he did) but I’m not surprised.”
Desmond, who hit .255 with 20 homers in 140 games last season, had been due $5,555,556 for the prorated share of his $15 million salary, part of a $70 million, five-year contract. He is owed $8 million next year, and his deal includes a $15 million team option for 2022 with a $2 million buyout.
Opting out this summer doesn’t affect his 2021 status, nor does it affect his relationship with Bridich.
“Ian is extremely thoughtful in what he does, he’s thoughtful in how he prepares as a professional athlete, he’s thoughtful as a husband and a father . . . he’s thoughtful about things that are bigger than him,” Bridich said. “And to this point, the reference has been the team or the clubhouse or the locker room, or things that affect the organization, his charity work, passion projects of his outside of the game of baseball.
“He’s willing to devote a lot of time and energy and thought to all of the things that he does. And so when you have somebody like that who is a professional athlete who is in the thick of it every day and trying to do the very best that he can to hold up his end of the bargain as an athlete, a teammate, a performer and then he’s always willing to think about other people on the team, in the organization and outside the organization, it’s easy to gravitate to people like that.”
Desmond complained about a lack of diversity in baseball and criticized the clubhouse atmosphere, saying it includes racism, sexism and homophobia. Bridich said Desmond didn’t complain specifically about the Rockies’ clubhouse, but Bridich did acknowledge the organization could be more diverse.
In his Instagram post, Desmond said he has been sharing more of his thoughts and experiences as a biracial man since Floyd’s death on May 25.
MVP winners call out Landis
Something still bothers Barry Larkin about his Most Valuable Player award. It’s the other name engraved on the trophy: Kenesaw Mountain Landis.
“Why is it on there?” said Larkin, the Black shortstop voted National League MVP in 1995 with the Cincinnati Reds.
“I was always aware of his name and what that meant to slowing the color line in Major League Baseball, of the racial injustice and inequality that Black players had to go through,” the Hall of Famer said this week.
Hired in 1920 as the sport’s first commissioner to help clean up rampant gambling, Landis and his legacy are “always a complicated story” that includes “documented racism,” official MLB historian John Thorn said.
This much is true, in black and white: No Black men played in the majors during his quarter-century tenure. Jackie Robinson broke the barrier in April 1947, about 2½ years after Landis died.
“Landis is a part of history, even though it was a dark history,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said.
Fact is, few fans realize Landis’ name is plastered all over the Most Valuable Player trophies. Most people just call it the MVP. But there it is, prominently displayed on every American League and NL MVP plaque since 1944 — Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award, in shiny, gold letters literally twice as big as those of the winner.
With a sizable imprint of Landis’s face, too.
To some MVPs, it’s time for that 75-year run to end.
“If you’re looking to expose individuals in baseball’s history who promoted racism by continuing to close baseball’s doors to men of color, Kenesaw Landis would be a candidate,” three-time NL MVP Mike Schmidt of Philadelphia said.
“Looking back to baseball in the early 1900s, this was the norm. It doesn’t make it right, though,” said the Hall of Famer, who is white. “Removing his name from the MVP trophy would expose the injustice of that era. I’d gladly replace the engraving on my trophies.”
Added 1991 NL MVP Terry Pendleton of Atlanta, who is Black: “This is 2020 now and things have changed all around the world. It can change for the better.”
“Statues are coming down, people are looking at monuments and memorials,” he said. “We need to get to the bottom of things, to do what’s right. Yes, maybe it is time to change the name.”
“I’ve always thought about that, why is that still on there?” Pendleton said. “No doubt, MVP stands on its own. It doesn’t need a name.”