If a reduced chance of falling ill wasn't enough of a reason to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, Major League Baseball just added some incentive.
MLB, in partnership with the players' association, sent a memo to players and staff Monday that outlined a loosening of restrictions once 85% of major league players and staff are vaccinated, per an AP report. No more masks in dugouts and bullpens is one of several potential changes, as well as the return of watching video before and after games as a team.
The memo strongly encouraged all players and staff to take the vaccine when eligible, which in Minnesota is Wednesday. The Twins, though, start the season on the road and won't return to the state until shortly before the April 8 home opener.
Derek Falvey, the Twins' president of baseball operations, said the team's medical staff is "actively working" on a vaccination plan now that everyone in the organization is eligible.
"We have some time before we return home to finalize that plan," Falvey said, "and hope to have that plan probably during the course of the early portion of the road trip."
Lifting some of the restrictions, which MLB instituted last summer, could also help teams bond or just make life a bit easier. Players and staff could gather indoors without masks or social distancing — as long as no unvaccinated people are present. They could use ride-share services, eat and drink on flights, even potentially avoid quarantining for contact tracing and have testing reduced to just twice a week.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said he tries to be transparent with his team in providing information while also making sure no one is too hung up on decisions outside of their control. Baldelli added deciding to receive a vaccine is a "personal decision," so he can't really predict if the league will reach the threshold.
"We're just going to have to see where everyone falls," Baldelli said. " … I'll be vaccinated. … I do currently believe the world is a better place because of vaccines and because of protecting people through them. If we didn't have vaccines, I think we'd be in a pretty ugly spot in a lot of different ways, and I still feel that way."
New Twins shortstop Andrelton Simmons will not follow Baldelli's lead, as he tweeted last week.
"For personal reasons and past experience, I will not be taking it or advocating for it," Simmons wrote. "I hope I don't have to explain myself. And hope you all make the best decision for you and your family's health."
Coaching changes near
With the recent death of bench coach Mike Bell from cancer, the Twins will have to make adjustments to their coaching staff. Those could come as soon as Tuesday, as Baldelli said he planned to tell his players of the moves then.
Baldelli offered some clarity on staff assistant and former bullpen catcher Nate Dammann, who took on some of Bell's spring training duties, including organizing workouts and acting as Baldelli's adviser on strategy.
"Nate's role is going change going forward, and even this year, Nate's role will probably be a little different," Baldelli said. "Nate will not be in the dugout this year, but I certainly see Nate Dammann being in the dugout for a while going forward. … He's done so much for this organization, for me personally, for our entire group in order to make everything function."
Catcher Mitch Garver returned to the lineup in the Twins' 5-3 victory at Pittsburgh after bruising his left hand Thursday.
"Garv was fine," Baldelli said. "He's wearing a little pad on his receiving hand. I don't know if he normally wears that or not, but I did see it on him today. I think he came out of everything OK."