MLB commissioner Rob Manfred expressed confidence on Thursday the league will strike a deal with the players union to restart the 2020 season.
Players have cited safety concerns as MLB and the union began negotiations this week on baseball’s return-to-play proposal. In an interview with CNN, Manfred laid out the testing protocols the league plans to have in place.
MLB will test players and other essential baseball personnel multiple times a week. The league has converted a lab in Utah, which typically oversaw its minor league drug testing, to conduct coronavirus testing. Manfred added the league will also conduct temperature checks and symptom analysis daily.
Should someone test positive for the virus, they will be removed from the group and quarantined, though not for a 14-day period.
"Our experts are advising us that we don't need a 14-day quarantine," Manfred told CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta. "What we will do is, the positive individual will be removed from the rest of the group.
“There will be a quarantine arrangement in each facility in each city and then we'll do contact tracing for the individuals that we believe there was contact with and we will do point-of-care testing for those individuals, to minimize the likelihood that there's been a spread."
A point of contention in MLB's proposal is the reported 50-50 revenue split between owners and players to cover revenue losses from a shortened season. Manfred is confident the two sides will come to an agreement.
"I think that whenever there's a discussion about economics, publicly people tend to characterize it as a fight," he told CNN. "Me personally, I have great confidence that we'll reach an agreement with the players association, both that it's safe to come back to work and work out the economic issues that need to be resolved."
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Manfred was clear that while the league hopes all players will return to work, MLB will not force them to do so.
“The protocols for returning to play, the health-related protocols, are about 80 pages in length,” he said. “They're extraordinarily detailed; they cover everything from how the players would travel, private charters, how those charters have to be cleaned, who has access to the ballpark, strict limits on number of people, tiering of employees — so even those people who are in the ballpark will be isolated in general from the players.
"So, we hope that we'll be able to convince them that it's safe. At the end of the day, however, if there's a player with either health conditions or just their own personal doubts, we would never try to force them to come back to work. They can wait until they feel they're ready to come."
Manfred said the league’s plan is to start the season in the first half of July and play in empty stadiums. He’s been in contact with the governors of MLB’s 18 home states, who have expressed hope teams will be able to use their facilities.
The league has contingency plans for teams to play elsewhere, if needed. Spring training sites in Arizona and Florida have been reported as possibilities.
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“All of our players would be tested multiple times a week” for coronavirus, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says on the efforts to bring baseball back. “That testing would be supplemented less frequently by antibody testing as well.” #CNNTownHall https://t.co/iOWj5nwtpL pic.twitter.com/qDylpfuIh7— CNN (@CNN) May 15, 2020