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Nationals cancel workouts, temporarily close summer camp

Nationals cancel workouts, temporarily close summer camp

The Washington Nationals made it three days before they decided to shut down their workouts at Nationals Park because of coronavirus concerns.

“Per MLB’s protocol, all players and staff were tested for Covid-19 on Friday, July 3rd,” Mike Rizzo said in a statement. “Seventy-two hours later, we have yet to receive the results of those tests. We cannot have our players and staff work at risk. Therefore, we have cancelled our team workout scheduled for this morning. We will not sacrifice the health and safety of our players, staff and their families. Without accurate and timely testing it is simply not safe for us to continue with Summer Camp. Major League Baseball needs to work quickly to resolve issues with their process and their lab.  Otherwise, Summer Camp and the 2020 Season are at risk.”

The team announced two positive tests Sunday. They were both from the initial intake process which took place July 1. Those players were quarantined. In the meantime, the organization was awaiting further results --  a fledgling process which was coming under more and more scrutiny across the league. The organization’s decision to stop practicing came Monday morning.

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Sunday, Sean Doolittle stated his concern about the lag in testing results -- Major League Baseball is using a lab in Salt Lake City, Utah -- as well as dissatisfaction with the limited PPE available to teams.

The Nationals practiced under extensive precautions during workouts, stressing safety and responsibility for everyone involved. Some players wore masks on the field (they are not mandated to do so). They used the home and visiting clubhouses, as well as an auxiliary space. Workouts were spread out from 7:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. None of it was enough to keep “summer camp” going.

RELATED: DOOLITTLE NOT SURE IF HE'LL PLAY IN 2020

Multiple players across the league have now tested positive for COVID-19 and expressed concern about whether the 60-game season can be played. The Nationals are scheduled to host the New York Yankees on July 23 as the marquee game to start the truncated season. Now, on the day the schedule was reportedly set to be released, the whole thing is in jeopardy after the defending World Series champions decided to pause their practices.

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Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman opts out of remainder of 2020 MLB season

Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman opts out of remainder of 2020 MLB season

Mets starting pitcher Marcus Stroman has opted out of the remainder of the 2020 Major League Baseball season. He took to Twitter to share his statement. 

Stroman hasn't pitched a game yet this season due to a strained calf he suffered in camp. The right-handed pitcher cited family concerns with coronavirus. 

The Mets traded two minor league pitchers for Stroman's services last July. In return, New York got 11 starts out of him as he heads to be a free agent for the first time in his career this offseason. Though it's possible Stroman's time as a Met is now finished, there's still a chance the Mets can extend his deal with a qualifying offer this winter. 

One more glance at Stroman's Twitter statement, however, and it's easy to see that he made sure not to mince words in his conclusion as he's looking forward to returning to "baseball" next season, not the Mets. 

Either way, it's a tough blow for a Mets organization that surprisingly swooped in for Stroman last summer in the first place. 

Although Stroman would have been out on the injured reserve list anyways for the Mets-Nationals three-game series set for tonight, Washington fans will surely be relieved the Nats won't have to hit against the talented pitcher. 

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Nationals are off to season’s most dangerous spot: the road

Nationals are off to season’s most dangerous spot: the road

WASHINGTON  -- The Nationals ventured to their chartered train Sunday for a first: They were leaving Nationals Park to play a regular-season game elsewhere in 2020. This is a new challenge in a year filled with randomization.

The road is a bedeviling place in professional sports no matter the climate. Favorite places of all kinds -- restaurants, hotels, entertainment venues -- pull athletes from their hotel into the city streets. It’s standard. Among the running jokes in the NBA is players coming down with the South Beach Flu. Go to Miami the night before a game, play poorly the next, perhaps you caught it while out until 3 a.m.

For Major League Baseball in 2020, traveling has become the greatest barrier to the season’s completion. Organizations are petrified of an outbreak prompted by one person venturing into the night while on the road. Or even in the morning when visiting a cafe for breakfast.

The Nationals will first tangle with road protocols -- set both internally and by MLB -- this week in New York. A four-game series with the Mets will test their ability to sit still. Staying in the hotel is job one. A special guard was even considered in order to make it happen.

“I’m going to put [Mike] Rizzo in the lobby,” Davey Martinez said with a laugh.

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That, presumably, would be an effective deterrent to anyone who stepped out of the elevator, then into the lobby, coming face-to-face with the team president’s bald head. But, the job will be handled by MLB security, which is now in the hotels of road teams to watch the coming and going of players and staff following the coronavirus outbreak within the Miami Marlins organization. The rest is up to the Nationals.

“When you go on the road, you get in a routine: your favorite places to eat breakfast, your favorite places to go get coffee,” Martinez said. “There’s going to be none of that. And, that’s going to be tough. We got to adhere to the protocols. In order to keep everybody safe, we’ve got to stay in the hotel. So there’s going to be different things that we need to do. There’s not going to be any gallivanting around the city anymore. A lot of these cities, honestly, are pretty much closed down and there’s not a whole lot going on.

“We’ve got to be smart. If we’re going to pull this off and keep everybody safe, the best thing is to stay in the hotel and chill. There’s going to be plenty of food -- from what I gather -- at the ballpark. We’ve got restaurants that are going to cook for us. We’ll have lunch, we’re going to have dinner after the game. I think now we just got to feed ourselves for breakfast. I’m hearing that the hotels are going to be open for breakfast for room service, but we’ve got to do whatever we can to stay safe.”

One issue will be the pull to see family in different places. Juan Soto has family in New York. Several players have family in the Miami area. When Martinez returns to Tampa in mid-September, his adult children already know they won’t be meeting in order to protect his safety and that of the team.

“They understand,” Martinez said. “Hopefully, when this is all over, I’ll spend a lot of time with them.”

RELATED: STEPHEN STRASBURG'S DEBUT SHOWS HE STILL HAS A WAYS TO GO

He and Rizzo have trumpeted the same point from the start: what happens away from the field impacts everyone who goes to it. So, stay home, do your part, do not be the single lit match.

Testing negative, keeping the house in order, and playing on has both become a point of pride and competition. The Nationals enter the week with only one positive test result since play began -- that belonged to Soto, and he thought it was a false positive -- and the league’s worst offense. Without their best hitter, Washington has gone through a season-long scoring drought. Only the St. Louis Cardinals have scored fewer runs. They have also played seven fewer games because of a coronavirus outbreak in their organization.

“It's a new baseball season that we've never had before,” Rizzo said. “There's protocols in place that kind of break the routine that we've had our whole careers and our whole lives. So the team that adapts to that best and easiest and most seamlessly will have an advantage of being more comfortable playing baseball. Once the game starts, you're just playing baseball. I think that everybody kind of gets into their comfort zone, at least for the three hours during the game.”

The playing baseball portion has been more difficult than following protocols. The Nationals are a bewildering 4-7 through the jagged first two weeks of the season. They arrive in New York with Max Scherzer ready to return Tuesday. They may also recall a four-game series in Citi Field from last year. When the Nationals walked into the park, they were in a bad place. When they walked out, everything was worse.

They want to worry about the pitching matchups more than hotel entrances and exits. The league has tightened protocols since the Marlins debacle. The Nationals are even working on how to spread out their pregame meetings in conference rooms. And, maybe Martinez was on to something. In a season where cardboard cutouts have been put to use, a life-sized Rizzo with his hands on hips in the hotel lobby may just come in handy.

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