Major League Baseball ramped up testing on the Phillies in the wake of the Miami Marlins' COVID-19 outbreak and so far, so good.
Not only have no Phillies players tested positive this week — no Phillies players have tested positive "since our intake screening process at the beginning of our summer camp," general manager Matt Klentak said on Wednesday.
MLB is still exercising caution with the Phillies, who shared a ballpark with the Marlins over the weekend.
The Phillies will not play until Saturday. And they will continue to undergo daily testing, in other words, twice as much as the ordinary protocol which calls for testing every other day.
"There may not be an end date (for the every-day testing)," Klentak said. "For now, we're taking daily tests and we'll do that until someone tells us we don't have to. We assume we'll be taking them for a while."
Klentak was the first member of the Phillies' front office to speak since the Marlins outbreak over the weekend. Here are some key questions that he was asked and the key topics he hit on:
Pitching coach Bryan Price
He is fine and back at work after not feeling well and quarantining over the weekend. All his tests were negative.
What did the Phillies know Sunday morning?
Manager Joe Girardi covered this after Sunday's game. The Phillies were alerted that the Marlins had some players who tested positive. The Phillies alerted their players. There were no objections to playing.
In retrospect, that may have been a mistake. Girardi has indicated as much.
Klentak said Major League Baseball knew of the Marlins' situation even before the Phillies did on Sunday morning.
"The decision to play or not to play is an MLB decision and all I can tell you is that there was plenty of communication before that game," he said. "There were others at the league level who knew about the positive test before we did. So, the determination was made at that point that it was safe and thus far it appears that (the infection) didn't travel from one clubhouse to the next which is good for us."
Does the Marlins' outbreak change anything?
You can bet that MLB will be more cautious proceeding with a game if there's another outbreak on a team. There will be some changes in safety protocols. Teams will likely provide higher quality masks for players to wear. Players will certainly be reminded to adhere to protocols.
Baseball-wise, there could be some changes. COVID-related postponements will lead to makeup doubleheaders. There's a good chance those will be seven-inning games. Also, the 30-man roster may be used for the entire 60-game season, not just the first two weeks. Who knows, Phil Gosselin might end up leading the league in homers.
Any other changes?
It's not out of the question that some teams won't be able to make up games. If that happens, playoff spots could be determined by winning percentage. It's not perfect, but neither is this 2020 world and baseball is just a subsection of that world.
"We know that this season is going to be different," Klentak said. "We know that it is going to present a variety of challenges and all of us across the league are going to try to do our best to a) keep the players and staff healthy and safe — that's the first priority — and b) play as many games as possible for our fans. That is really the two-fold goal and if that comes with some competitive imbalances, that is just something we are going to have to live with."
Are the Phillies being hit hard with these competitive imbalances?
Yes. Harder than most. Doubleheaders can wreak havoc on a pitching staff and the Phillies now have one Saturday. Also, they could potentially be hurt in a number of other ways heading into the doubleheader. In the wake of their exposure to the Marlins, the Phillies have been shut down by MLB out of "an abundance of caution." MLB's heart is in the right place because health and safety is the priority, but as long as there's going to be a season, the baseball does matter. Five days without playing — and several without being allowed in your own ballpark to work out — can put a team at a competitive disadvantage. It can also create injury risk.
"I don't dispute that this layoff this week has created a lot of challenges for us, on the field, off the field," Klentak said. "There's an administrative burden on many people and uncertainty for the players. The players aren't playing baseball right now and they are used to playing almost daily. Now we're going to have five days off and we're going to ramp it up with two games on Saturday. That presents its own health risks — maybe not COVID-related, but orthopedic.
"The best thing we can do is try to rally together, both as a team and as a league to make the most of it. It's going to take the efforts of everybody to get through it. I'm not trying to minimize the challenge of it and the competitive elements of it. Those are all very real. I think we have to put health and safety first. We don't really have another choice. That has to be priority No. 1."
With Friday's game being pushed into Saturday's doubleheader, Klentak was not sure of the pitching order that Girardi would use. The Phils had planned to come back from the unplanned break with Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Jake Arrieta as their first three starters.
Arrieta has yet to make a start. Neither has Zach Eflin, who will follow Arrieta in the rotation.
After the weekend series against the Blue Jays, the Yankees loom.
This won't be easy.
But, after the last few months, we knew that already.
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