A number of high-profile major-league players have opted out of the shortened 2020 season because of concerns about coronavirus. San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey was the latest.
The opt outs, coupled with spikes in the virus in several states that have big-league teams, have fueled doubts that the season, due to start in 12 days, will even get off the ground.
Phillies pitcher Jake Arrieta is not one of those doubters.
“I don’t see any reason why we can’t execute a full season,” Arrieta said Saturday. “The protocols and safety guidelines we’re following here in Philadelphia are strict and for good reason. We have to take it upon ourselves to be safe. Limit interactions away from the field. We need to wear masks outside or in the clubhouse. That’s just what we need to do, be respectful and courteous to those around us.
“I don’t mean to be pessimistic. I feel like it will happen. It was scary to see Scotty (Kingery) get it and (Atlanta’s) Freddie Freeman get hit really hard the way he did. If it can happen to them, it can happen to any of us.
“There’s a lot on the line and we have an opportunity to do something special in a very strange year if we follow the protocols and I think everyone here is willing to do that.”
Arrieta was the Phillies’ pitcher the day the game was shut down by the pandemic back on March 12. He spent nearly four months at home in Austin, Texas with his wife and young son and daughter. His son, Cooper, teared up when dad left for the airport last week, but it was time to go back to work. Arrieta, 34, threw consistently during the shutdown. He got back on the mound with his teammates in Saturday’s intrasquad game.
Arrieta got 10 outs on 48 pitches. Half of the outs came on ground balls. He struck out one and walked one.
“Today was nice, very efficient,” Arrieta said. “The sinker was good. I threw some great cutters. Got a strikeout on a changeup.”
If Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler stay healthy and on track — Wheeler has the extra variable of a baby being due to arrive in a couple of weeks — Arrieta is likely to slot in third in the Phillies’ rotation. He is 18-19 with a 4.26 ERA in 55 starts over two seasons with the Phillies. He is healthy after having elbow surgery late last season. If you’re looking for X factors, or players who need to stand and deliver for this team to have success, Arrieta is right up there with Rhys Hoskins and others.
A good two-month run by Arrieta would help the Phillies’ chances greatly and springboard him into free agency this winter.
The shutdown has hurt the sport’s revenues and that could soften the market for players like Arrieta next winter.
For now, Arrieta is not concerned about that.
“If you look at (Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick) Mahomes’ deal, it shows that sports, and baseball is no different, will generate a tremendous amount of revenue regardless of what’s going on right now. We’ve seen certain TV deals be signed. Every free-agent class has obstacles. We can’t predict the future.
“We just have to play it out and see. There will be a lot of guys in the same boat as I am. I’ll handle that when time approaches.
“First and foremost, I’m concerned about the health and safety of our players and coaches and the people who provide everything they do for us, and trying to win some games.”
Arrieta will look to jump to 65 or so pitches in his next outing. He believes he will be ready to push 85 pitches in his first outing of the regular season. That could be as soon as two weeks from Sunday.