Phillies

Phillies

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Two weeks before the scheduled season opener, the Phillies walked off the field after Thursday's 8-4 Grapefruit League win over the Tampa Bay Rays and headed straight into a world of uncertainty.

Major League Baseball, as expected, joined with other leagues around the globe and shut down operations in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Spring training is suspended.

Opening day, scheduled for March 26, has been pushed back at least two weeks, but it could be more depending on the course of the health crisis.

No one in Phillies red objected to MLB's decision to hit the pause button.

"This is something that I think we'll remember for the rest of our lives," Rhys Hoskins said. "It's something that's kind of stopping the world as we know it. 

"Was I surprised? I don't know. I don't think so. Just because of how serious this could end up being. Again, as much as sport in general gives us a distraction from things like this, at some point you've got to put health and safety first."

Teammate Jean Segura agreed.

"Absolutely, they have to do it because I think family is more important than anything in sports," Segura said. "When you have a virus, you want to keep your family safe and the players, too. MLB made that decision today and I think it was the right decision.

"My family is with me. It's been stressful. I don't want my kids out of the house because that virus is everywhere. You can't contain it. Especially when we play on the road and we take the bus and we're handing out waters and practicing and you have to run through a lot of people. Nobody knows who has that virus. It's too dangerous."

 

Manager Joe Girardi got the news of MLB's decision during Thursday's game. He was not surprised. He'd seen the NBA halt its schedule the night before and knew MLB would probably follow.

"MLB feels like it's in our best interests to shut the industry down right now and I always feel it's better to be safe than sorry," he said. "I know sports is very important to our country and, obviously, it employs a lot of people, too. People look forward to turning a game on — I know I do — and we're going to be without that for a while.

"Again, I think it's in our best interest to be safe rather than sorry and eventually I believe we'll all be back out there and the world will be normal again, but right now we're in a little pause."

So what happens during the pause?

Girardi said he will find out more when he meets with Phillies team officials on Friday morning in Clearwater.

"We're waiting for more direction from the commissioner," Girardi said. "They just put out the memo now. The union and the commissioner have to discuss what's next — what do we do next, what happens to the players, where do they go, do we have a time when we come back, is it just in limbo? 

"So, all we know is (Friday) there won't be games."

Players are expected to be at the team complex in Clearwater on Friday and there may be workouts. But there might come a time when they are allowed to return to their offseason homes. The situation is fluid and everything is up in the air. Even Hoskins, the team's union rep, didn't immediately have answers.

"I wish I had more information," he said. "I'm sure it'll be coming out as time goes on today, tomorrow. I really don't even know what's going to go on with camp."

MLB has had two fairly recent in-season pauses. One came after the tragedies of September 11, 2001. The other was in 1994 when the players went on strike. The World Series was canceled that year and the start of the 1995 season was pushed back until April 26. Teams played a 144-game schedule that year, not the typical 162. It's not clear how MLB will reconfigure the schedule for this season. It really all depends on how the health crisis plays out and there's no roadmap for that.

"It seems like races go down to the last day no matter when we start," Girardi said. "I don't know if when we come back spring training will be short and the rosters will be expanded by a couple of guys.

"I don't know. There's just a lot of unknowns right now."

After speaking with reporters, Girardi boarded the team bus for the two-hour drive back to Clearwater. Thursday's victory left his Phillies with a spring record of 14-5-1, the best in all of baseball, not that it matters. First of all, it's only practice. And second, there are more important things going on in the real world.

 

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