FORT MYERS, Fla. — The welcome news that fans would be allowed back at Fenway Park in time for Opening Day broke just as the Red Sox were finishing up practice on Thursday.
“Obviously where we’re at with the virus, to have fans is great. It’s great,” manager Alex Cora said.
“From our end that means that our families can actually be a part of it, too, and that means a lot for them to go to Fenway and watch us perform. Which is cool.”
Governor Charlie Baker announced Fenway, TD Garden, and Gillette Stadium can open at 12 percent of capacity. That would be approximately 4,500 at Fenway.
The Red Sox said season ticket-holders would be offered the first opportunity to attend games. Additional details will be announced.
“It’s going to be very exciting,” outfielder Alex Verdugo said. “Obviously it’s not going to be the sold-out, packed stadiums that we’re used to.
“But just to open it up and get a little bit of that [normalcy] coming back in there and seeing some fans, seeing some fresh faces and genuine reactions, will definitely be exciting. It also will be kind of weird at first, too.”
Seats are likely to be sold in “pods” to maintain social distancing and fans will be required to adhere to other safety protocols. The team has been working on a plan for how best to reopen the park.
“Things are trending in the right direction, right? That’s another step,” Cora said. “Hopefully whenever we can, we’re going to have a packed house and that’s going to be really, really special.”
Fenway Park has been serving as a mass vaccination site. The Sox said they were “fully committed” for that to continue and that vaccinations would be coordinated around the baseball schedule.
Marwin Gonzalez, who was added to the roster Wednesday, had a full day on the field. The switch-hitting utility player is likely to have a large role.
Cora sees Gonzalez playing all around the infield, including shortstop when Xander Bogaerts needs a day off.
“We have a really good relationship. This is a guy that I trust,” said Cora, who got to know Gonzalez with the 2017 Astros. “I know he can do a lot of stuff on the field, in the clubhouse, and I’m happy he’s with us.”
NESN sets schedule
NESN will carry 11 spring training games starting Monday with the 1 p.m. matchup against the Braves at JetBlue Park.
Dave O’Brien will call the majority of the games with Tom Caron filling in. Jerry Remy, Dennis Eckersley, and Lenny DiNardo also will be part of the broadcasts.
The other NESN games will be March 6 (Minnesota, 1 p.m.), March 7 (at Atlanta, 1 p.m.), March 13 (Atlanta, 1 p.m., NESN Plus), March 14 (at Minnesota, 1 p.m.), March 19 (Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.), March 21 (Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.), March 24 (Baltimore, 6 p.m.), March 25 (Minnesota, 6 p.m., NESN Plus), March 28 (Minnesota, 1 p.m.), and March 30 (Atlanta, 1 p.m.).
Hitting coach Tim Hyers came out of the clubhouse wearing a thick gold chain with a large blinged-out dollar-sign medallion hanging from it. The “Coach of the Day” wears the chain then determines the next winner. It was something Cora started to have a little fun … The Sox are planning to use Bobby Dalbec, Rafael Devers, Kiké Hernandez, and Christian Vazquez in the lineup for Sunday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Twins … Michael Chavis, Devers, and Vazquez are in noticeably better shape than last season, Chavis in particular … The coaches have been impressed by the work of infielder Christian Arroyo, who has been swinging the bat well. Arroyo is a well-traveled former first-round pick who appeared in 14 games for the Sox last season. The 25-year-old is out of minor league options and will get a long look … Backup catcher Kevin Plawecki, who is on the COVID-19-related injured list, arrived at Fenway South and should be returned to the camp roster within a day or two. Franchy Cordero, who also tested positive, could return early next week … Joe Castiglione, who is preparing for his 39th season calling Sox games on the radio, attended the workout.