The Twins’ five remaining regular-season games and, they hope, a first-round playoff series will be played at Target Field.
But starting Tuesday, it’s all one big road trip for the players, even in Minneapolis.
The entire 40-man roster, along with several family members and a few dozen staff members, will check in to a nearby hotel on Tuesday and begin life under a strict quarantine. No more being politely asked to follow COVID-19 recommendations, no more do-your-best-to-stay-safe admonitions — the Twins, like all teams expecting to compete in the playoffs next week, will now exist, until they are eliminated from the playoffs, in a mobile virus-free bubble, with no outside interactions that could risk an infection and jeopardize the lucrative postseason tournament.
“We’re going to be locked up somewhere in Minnesota, and it’s going to be like being on the road. You can’t go for breakfast, you can’t go get coffee, you can’t do anything. You [have to] stay in your room, eat breakfast in a room that’s designated for us to eat in,” and take a team bus to and from the ballpark, Tyler Duffey said. “It’s going to be pretty brutal, but that’s baseball in 2020.”
It’s all designed to protect a 16-team playoff season beginning next Tuesday that could bring in almost $1 billion in broadcast money, a desperately needed cash infusion for the industry, from the sort of game-canceling infections that the Marlins and Cardinals suffered in July and August. The players’ union agreed to the strict new rules for the season’s final week and the entire month of playoffs, which will include strict security and even more frequent virus testing. After the first round of playoffs, the remaining teams will maintain their bubbles in California and Texas until they are eliminated.
“It’s similar to being on the road this year, where guys essentially have to quarantine,” Derek Falvey, the Twins’ president of baseball operations, said of the roughly 90 members of the Twins’ traveling staff, including himself. “Our guys need to be prepared for it, because we’re talking about the wild-card round and every subsequent round.
“There are some things that are challenging being on the road, and in hotels, and otherwise. But everyone is dealing with it. You have a choice, you can feel sorry for yourself or you can just attack it head on. Our guys are focused on how we attack it head on from this point forward.”
The St. Paul camp for the Twins’ extra players ended on Monday, and the 20 not on the 40-man roster will go to Fort Myers, Fla., to take part in fall instructional workouts, along with several dozen minor leaguers who were idled by canceled seasons this summer. The rest will remain in quarantine with the major league team throughout the playoffs, holding separate practices at Target Field in case they are needed.
Players, but not staff members, can bring family members along as long as they observe all isolation rules, too.
“We’re all human, and the stresses of what’s surrounding us right now are undeniable. We’ve never had to deal with this before,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Some of it is very hard, but it shows how resilient our players are.”