NEW YORK — The Red Sox will make their first trip to Florida Sunday evening to play the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-game set. Florida has recently seen more than 12,000 new cases of COVID-19 of late, and with the Miami Marlins experiencing a surge that has wiped out more than half their club, the Red Sox are taking extra precautions but not without some trepidation.
“I’m fine with the travel there,” manager Ron Roenicke said before the Red Sox wrapped up their series against the Yankees Sunday night in New York. “But it is concerning going there and getting in the hotel and concerning with an off day. On an off day, you want guys to go out and relax and do some things they enjoy, and we know that that’s probably not a good idea. So, we’ve talked to all of [the players].”
Roenicke added that some players talked to them first, asking staff members what they would deem appropriate considering the unprecedented times.
Major League Baseball recently threatened a league-wide shutdown after COVID-19 hit the Marlins and, now, the St. Louis Cardinals. Some players reportedly weren’t being diligent off the field. MLB never implemented any protocols for players away from their workspace, leaving many of the decisions in the players’ hands. Roenicke said the team doesn’t want to keep players locked down to their rooms when they’re not at the field, however, with the recent outbreak, the Sox have tightened the grip a bit.
“We were on another Zoom call with the staff and talking about how we could be more forceful and making sure we’re doing the right thing,” Roenicke said. “It’s more kind of in-game. Off the field, we think we’ve kind of done a pretty good job.”
When traveling, the Sox players and staff have to keep their masks on at all times. The team doesn’t allow players to get up from their seats and fraternize with other players to ensure that they maintain social distance. That can be tough, though.
Xander Bogaerts said it’s been hard getting to know the newcomers since they have to be distanced so much. Bogaerts expressed that he actually feels for some of the new players, who have to try to gel with a team they don’t know in the midst of a pandemic. For him, personally, a leader of the squad, he’s still trying to find how he can best let his voice be heard.
“It’s hard,” he said. “It’s real hard. I just try to motivate them, make them feel like you’re there for them. Baseball is a hard game, man, you’re going to have a lot of ups and downs. You have to really have trust in yourself this year more than any other year. There aren’t any fans out there cheering for you. Whenever you’re hitting, it feels like you’re even more by yourself in that box. This is difficult.”
Bogaerts wants video, too
Add Bogaerts to the list of players who needs in-game video. J.D. Martinez recently said not having access to video in order to see what adjustments he could make from at-bat to at-bat has been difficult. Bogaerts feels the same way.
“Not being able to see your in-game at-bats that’s definitely hurt a lot of us. I’m one of those guys,” Bogaerts said. “After an at-bat, I go straight to the video room to see if it was a strike or what I’m doing wrong. But now it’s like show up and play, you know?”
The pandemic limited in-game video access for players. Now, instead of the players seeing something on replay with their own eyes, they have to depend on the coaching staff or other players
“If you’re feeling bad, talk to the hitting coach or talk to the guys because you can’t see any video,” he said.
The Sox have an off day Monday and could reshuffle the rotation, if need be, though they will likely keep Nate Eovaldi, Martin Perez and Ryan Weber in the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 spots of the rotation. “Right now, that’s what we plan to do,” Roenicke said. “These games, they change your minds sometimes with how you use people.” . . . Josh Taylor and Darwinzon Hernandez threw a second live batting practice. Now they will throw a simulated game. Roenicke said both are getting closer to joining the big league club.