In an unprecedented move, Major League Baseball suspended spring training Thursday because of the spread of Coronavirus, more than two weeks before the games were scheduled to end. The start of the MLB season has also been delayed.
Commissioner Rob Manfred made the announcement following a conference call with team owners in the afternoon.
Washington was scheduled to open its defense of the 2019 World Series title on March 26 in New York against the Mets. Instead, the season will be delayed at least two weeks.
Twelve exhibition games remained on the schedule following Thursday’s home game against the New York Yankees. They will not be played.
MLB says the “action is being taken in the interests of the safety of and well-being of our players, clubs and millions of loyal fans.”
The postponement comes on a day awash with cancellations across the sports world. The NHL suspended regular-season play and multiple college basketball conference tournaments were stopped. Events preparing for a coming year -- like spring football practices -- were also put on hold.
Washington now has to make multiple personnel decisions with truncated information. Foremost is what to do at third base. Prospect Carter Kieboom entered the day hitting .250 and with three errors -- which would have been four if not for a generous scoring decision -- during his 13 games.
Less pressing is what to do with the lower levels of the bullpen, where Hunter Strickland continues to have problems with home runs and the Nationals are in search of someone to pitch extended innings.
But, if there is a team which could use additional rest, it’s the Nationals. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin all endured significant stress to make it through October last season. Closer Sean Doolittle and reliever Daniel Hudson could also use more of a break.
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