FORT MYERS, FLA. – Tuesday marked the first day clubs operated under new guidelines put forth by Major League Baseball in reaction to the spread of the coronavirus. And the Twins know they might hear from MLB again as contingency plans are contemplated for regular-season games.
Their opening road trip from March 26-April 1 is to Oakland and Seattle, cities located in two states that have, as of Tuesday, over 300 confirmed cases of the virus.
There have been reports that MLB could consider moving or canceling games — or playing them in empty stadiums — if the virus continues to spread in areas where teams are located. Derek Falvey, the Twins’ president of baseball operations, said they expect to maintain contact with MLB, with Opening Day just over two weeks away.
“It would be irresponsible not to be planning for different potential outcomes,” Falvey said. “But at present, we don’t have any new plans or new ideas. We’ll continue to focus on what we’re doing here, and then they’ll give us some guidance as we go over the next week, I’d imagine.”
Meanwhile, Twins players were interviewed outside the clubhouse entrance at Hammond Stadium and in the dugout. The new guidelines ban media and nonessential club personnel from clubhouses. MLB also has requested players and coaches stand six to eight feet away from media members during interviews.
Falvey has decided that, for the most part, the clubhouse ban includes himself, General Manager Thad Levine and other members of his baseball operations staff.
“I’m not going in,” Falvey said. “Not to be flip about it, we’re taking it very seriously around what Major League Baseball has suggested, and essentially personnel for clubhouse duties will be in the clubhouse. We’ll be on the periphery and go to different areas as necessary, but to the extent that we can all do our part to try and remove too much interaction in the clubhouse itself, we’re gonna follow.”
Marwin looks ahead
Marwin Gonzalez spent Tuesday hitting in the cage, then facing teammate Homer Bailey in live batting practice at the CenturyLink Sports Complex.
There’s nothing wrong with his bat — he’s 3-for-7 with a home run in three games since being cleared to play. But how is his surgically repaired right knee, the one that has made the Twins use him only at second base so far?
The Twins have yet to play Gonzalez in the outfield, but plan to do so before camp breaks. But the club might be a little reluctant to use him in the outfield during the first few weeks of the regular season until the knee gets a little stronger.
Gonzalez also has been a tad concerned, but he has had no problems playing second and has looked sharp there, although he admitted he was nervous the first time a ground ball was hit his way.
“I did one day last week, and it was OK,” he said. “I didn’t feel anything. I think it’s more mental since I have that thing in my knee. So it’s more mental than sore sometimes.”
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli is expected to use Gonzalez as the multi-positional, everyday player he envisioned when Gonzalez signed with the Twins last February. Gonzalez just has to prove he can play the outfield.
“I think the plan for the season is to go around the field like last year,” Gonzalez said. “The last time I spoke to [Baldelli], that was the plan, and I think I’ve been playing at second because of my knee. I think next week, I’m going to start working in the outfield because that requires more running and this gives me more time to go to the outfield.”
• Bailey threw around 60 pitches during live batting practice at Hammond Stadium. In addition to Gonzalez, Byron Buxton and Mitch Garver were among players who stood in against Bailey.
Righthander Jose Berrios will start for the Twins while lefthander Max Fried starts for the Braves. First pitch is at 12:05 p.m. and the game will be televised on Fox Sports North.
La Velle E. Neal III