The first batch of coronavirus testing consisted of 131 samples from Twins players, coaches and staff members being sent to the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory in Salt Lake City.
The Twins are one of 30 teams using the Major League Baseball-provided lab, meaning there are a lot of tests to be examined, with the promise that results would be known within two days. The Twins have received initial results for tests last week and now are on an every-other-day testing cycle.
“I was tested yesterday,” Twins catcher Mitch Garver said Monday. “I have not gotten the result back. And our testing went very smooth yesterday. We were able to get 10-12 guys going at the same time. So I think overall testing went very smooth, and we were in and out before you knew it.”
Not every team was so fortunate. The Nationals and Astros canceled workouts Monday because neither World Series participant received the results of tests they took Friday. The Cardinals also bagged a workout because of testing issues. That all adds to the list of challenges the league is facing as it tries to start a season amid a pandemic.
It forced MLB to release a statement Monday, explaining that the July 4th holiday weekend affected the delivery of the results.
“Our plan required extensive delivery and shipping services, including proactive special accommodations to account for the holiday weekend,” the league wrote. “The vast majority of those deliveries occurred without incident and allowed the protocols to function as planned. Unfortunately, several situations included unforeseen delays. We have addressed the delays caused by the holiday weekend and do not expect a recurrence. We commend the affected clubs that responded properly by canceling workouts.”
The Twins got through their testing with no delays. Miguel Sano and Willians Astudillo tested positive during the intake testing phase. Two minor leaguers, Nick Gordon and Edwar Colina, tested positive at their offseason locations.
“We’ve been pretty good over here,” said Taylor Rogers, the interim Twins players union representative. “The Twins have done an awesome job with us. I think it goes to show so far we haven’t had any complications so that just makes us know that everybody here is doing their job and doing the best that they can. As far as the Players Association, we haven’t heard anything just because so far everything’s been smooth over here.”
Problems with the testing process likely will raise the anxiety levels among players even more. Many of them have reported to camps with concerns about if they can make it to Opening Day or play the entire 60-game schedule.
The Twins clubhouse is full of various opinions. Garver has been up front with all the things he thinks can go wrong.
“We don’t know anything about this,” he said. “This is only six or seven months old in the United States really. There’s not enough information out there for us to feel completely safe. It feels like a lot of guys are going out there thinking that they are going to get sick but everything us going to be fine when it’s over.”
A growing number of major leaguers have decided that it’s not worth it.
Nine players have decided not to take part in camp, including the Dodgers’ David Price, the Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman and the Rockies’ Ian Desmond. Braves outfielder Nick Markakis joined the group Monday. Price and Markakis are part of teams expected to reach the postseason, and Zimmerman helped the Nationals win the World Series last year. Health and safety is more important than winning, in their eyes.
But notice all nine are veterans; only one, Washington’s Joe Ross, is still in his 20s. Garver, 29, needs to play this year to qualify for arbitration, which he factored into his decision to play.
“If service time and money weren’t an issue, you’d see more guys opt out,” Garver said. “But guys want to get that year of service time. I know the majority of the league is trying to earn their way through life and make their salary, but the only way you can opt out is by taking away that service time and money, so there’s a lot of people who are in that boat as well.”
Players are weighing all sorts of factors as they have decided to play or not to play. AL MVP Mike Trout has reported to Angels camp but has been vocal about his concerns about attempts to start the season in the middle of a pandemic. He is concerned about protocols being affective. Plus his wife, Jessica, is expecting a baby in August.
He’s not the only one with those concerns — or additional circumstances.
“I know Mike Trout has stated this,” Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson said. “He is expecting a child. I am as well. So it is similar circumstances. I understand the thoughts that are going through his head right now, and I feel that. I think at the end of the day each individual has the right to make up their mind as to what is the best.
“I feel that at this spot in my career, it’s advantageous for me, myself, my family and this organization for me to be out there and play. Obviously everyone knows I signed a long-term deal with the Minnesota Twins this offseason, and I want to be able to go out there and put on the uniform and help this organization.”
Players have had to decide whether or not to bring their families. Others are in camp crossing their fingers that the protocols are sound. Garver said he has a teammate who refuses to enter the weight room if there are too many players in there. Rogers said he has not had to have one conversation with a player about the importance of wearing a mask.
If baseball is to return this year, the preparation will be unlike anything players have seen. And the Twins are aware that there’s a mental health component at work as well, as they work out in altered surroundings, have to be tested every other day and alter the lifestyle that normally comes with being an athlete while making sure their loved ones are safe. When tests aren’t returned in time, it’s another layer added to the challenge.
Derek Falvey, the Twins president of baseball operations, watched players report to camp last week and could tell not everyone was in the same frame of mind.
“It’s a range of feelings,” Falvey said. “Some guys are a bit anxious. That’s real. And some guys are really excited to be back and ready to go and just trying to figure it out. Like anything, it’s different than what we’re used to or the norm. It’s going to take some time. But in the early going I think guys are enjoying the chance to be around one another again.”