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Liam Hendriks describes 'surreal' camp preparing for 2020 MLB season

Liam Hendriks describes 'surreal' camp preparing for 2020 MLB season

The last three weeks of "Camp Coliseum" have been a lot to mentally process for A’s players and staff.  

While baseball indeed is "back," the altered routines and rhythms don’t make it feel any kind of normal.

“I think it’s all a little surreal right now," Liam Hendriks said on Sunday via FaceTime.

“The biggest difference for us is that everything feels rushed. We’re not allowed to be at the field for a certain amount of time. We’ve got staggered arrivals. We have certain things where people come to the field super early and then they’re out before the next group even gets there.”

So far, the A’s and all MLB teams have yet to fully hit the road, as they will once this weekend arrives. Hendriks says travel won’t necessarily be baseball’s biggest challenge against COVID-19, but timely responses will.

He suggests the troubling scenario where a player tests positive from a sample they submitted 48 hours earlier. 

“That’s just undoubtedly going to happen at some point,” Hendriks said. “But hopefully the protocols we have in place while wearing masks in the clubhouse, hand sanitizing, all of this… that will kind of limit the exposure to the rest of the team and it’s not going to cause an entire team to get wiped out.”

Which would be among the worst-case scenarios, from the standpoint of personal health risks, and everything MLB players and staff are putting on the line to attempt the season

[RELATED: A's need vintage Sean Manaea to bolster banged-up starting rotation]

Personal accountability isn’t just a team-wide mandate.  It has to be sport-wide.

“You don’t want to be that guy, that all of a sudden gets it because you were doing something you weren’t supposed to,” Hendriks said. 

“And then passes it around the team, and then someone ends up on a ventilator. That’s not what anyone wants. And that’s what we’re trying to prevent having all these protocols in place.”

Matt Chapman, A's embracing masks, distancing as part of new routine

Matt Chapman, A's embracing masks, distancing as part of new routine

The A’s have taken over the former Raiders locker room to gain more clubhouse space inside the Coliseum.  

The sights in that room are indeed new, but as for the sounds — reigning platinum glover Matt Chapman remains the unofficial team DJ.

“We have a speaker in there still,” Chapman told NBC Sports California via FaceTime on Friday. “Bluetooth, so nobody has to touch it or anything. Everyone is on their own phone.”

It’s definitely been abnormal scenery during these last three weeks of "Camp Coliseum." Like the rest of the society, teammates have already adjusted to seeing each other wearing masks.

“It took a little getting used to at the beginning seeing guys wear masks,” Chapman said. “A little spooky the first time you’re in there getting adjusted to some of the new normals.” 

Practice has already formed proper habits. On Friday, MLB revealed the prior week of 10,548 samples produced only 6 positive tests for COVID-19.

“We’ve got a good system going, everybody seems to feel safe," Chapman said. "We’ve still been having fun, and haven’t really been too bothered by it.”

Spending less time overall around the ballpark is also an adjustment. Players have specific windows for arrival and departures. 

“Just not getting to the field as early,” Chapman said. “For a 7 p.m. game you’d see guys arriving anywhere from noon and after.”

Chapman says he has altered a few longtime personal preparation routines, but is still getting the early work done. Which now includes stretching and a yoga session at home, before even driving to the ballpark. 

[RELATED: Manaea not distracted by unique season]

“It just makes you focus, and figure out what it really takes to get ready to play,” Chapman said. 

When asked about his team’s "good" chances in a shortened season, Chapman responded that he feels “great” about Oakland’s potential in 2020.

How Frankie Montas went from 'dark place' to A's Opening Day starter

How Frankie Montas went from 'dark place' to A's Opening Day starter

A's starter Frankie Montas had it all going his way last summer. A 9-2 record, including five consecutive wins, and a virtual ticket to the 2019 All-Star Game as of June 20.

The next day, Montas was handed an 80-game suspension by MLB after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.

In the months that followed, Montas kept himself in physical playing shape. But struggled with the mental anguish.

“I ain’t going to lie, I think I went three and a half weeks without watching a baseball game,” Montas said during an interview with NBC Sports California on Feb. 20 in Mesa, Arizona. “I wasn’t there, but, supporting my boys from the house. I missed it.”

“That was a dark place for him,” manager Bob Melvin said in February.  “To have to go through that and watch his team succeed, a guy that was so important to us over the course of the first half.”

The A's didn't allow Montas' suspension to derail their 2019 season, though. Instead, they found steam from separate places starting in mid-June, and still managed to hit the 97-win mark by the end of the season. Montas says he was proud of how teammates responded to the adversity, but the individual lesson wasn’t lost.

“I did learn a lot last year,” Montas said about being instantly removed from his job. “Being able to miss it, that woke me up. Like, you’re playing this for something. This is not just for you, but for your family, and the fans. It just makes you appreciate the game a little more, and love a little more too.”

And now the focus turns to 2020. Montas was officially named the A's Opening Day starter by Melvin on Saturday, and he will headline an elite rotation Oakland hasn’t seen in decades.

“I’ve always thrown hard, had a good arm,” Montas said in February. “The thing for me was to try and control it. Through my progression in the minor leagues, I was wild, was not a guy to go out and throw strikes. I’d walk five or six people. Trying to limit walks was a big challenge for me, and stepping up my game.”

[RELATED: Making case for Montas as Cy Young winner]

Montas says there’s no personal need to prove himself, and that his performance from last season is exactly where he’d like to continue from.

“He’s as driven as he’s ever been, and he’s smiling every day,” Melvin said. “He’s happy to be here and the guys embrace him, they understand he made a mistake. There’s always second chances, and he’s handling himself beautifully right now.”