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Nats GM Mike Rizzo: Nationals would need 'three weeks or so' to be fully ready for games

Nats GM Mike Rizzo: Nationals would need 'three weeks or so' to be fully ready for games

Even though Major League Baseball didn't officially begin the 2020 season before coronavirus temporarily shut it down, months of preparation was halted and forced to be reworked. 

Without a set date for a return to play, the Nationals haven't stopped preparing for their World Series title defense. They've simply been careful not to peak too soon. 

"We have not ceased to train for spring training," General manager Mike Rizzo told The Sports Junkies Wednesday. "We have a major-league coaches and managers staff call weekly, we have the position-player coaches in contact with the pitchers, the hitting coaches in contact with the hitters.

"We're in constant contact, these guys are staying in good shape," he said. "We don't want them peaking or getting ready too early in case there's a delay in spring training or there is no spring training but we want them to be on the fringes of being ready and prepared to go to spring training."

Rizzo also revealed how long he believes his team in an abbreviated spring training period to be full-go for game action. 

"We think in three weeks or so, give or take, they could be in full swing for any type of real competition when the season starts," he said. 

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For now, Nationals players can look forward to their upcoming virtual ring ceremony and prepare by their own methods. Nats fans can feel good about their team's work ethic during a pandemic because apparently they've gone to great lengths to stay ready. 

"We've got a lot of guys [using] a lot of ingenuity to figure out ways to stay prepared for the season," Rizzo said. "Somebody should do a documentary on the different types of setups these guys have, it's really remarkable.

"Guys buying portable mounds so they can throw in their back yards and buying batting cages, pitching machines and curveball machines to ready themselves in that type of unique situation," he said.

Everyone wants to know what the next big sports documentary will be to follow up The Last Dance, and maybe this could be it. I'll submit the first title suggestion as Rest in Peace to Max Scherzer's Lawn. 

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How will MLB's new extra inning with a runner on second rule work strategically?

How will MLB's new extra inning with a runner on second rule work strategically?

Major League Baseball is going to be bizarre in 2020. A 60-game schedule. The designated hitter in the National League. No fans.

But the change a lot of baseball fans might have the toughest getting used to is the tweak to extra innings. Each team will begin each extra inning with a man on second base. The crew from the Nationals Talk podcast had differing opinions on the new rule.

“I absolutely love it,” NBC Sports Washington's Nick Ashooh said.

Team reporter Todd Dybas did not agree.

“The rule is dumb. It goes against everything that baseball is about.”

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Chase Hughes broke the tie. “I’m a no on the rule too. I’m with Todd.”

What about the strategy of starting with a man on second base? Could team's exploit or alter the ending of the previous frame to set up a new inning? 

The rule states: “The runner placed on second base at the start of each half-inning shall be the player (or a substitute for such player) in the batting order immediately preceding that half-inning’s leadoff hitter.”

Dybas wondered if it would be wise to end the previous inning on purpose if a speedster is at the plate with two outs.

“Would it behoove [Giants'] Billy Hamilton to make the final out? So the next inning he would start at second base?” Hamilton is a career .242 hitting but has 299 stolen bases in 809 games played. 

RELATED: COULD MORE OPT-OUTS BE COMING? 

Frustration will also be inevitable. “I can’t wait to hear from the players on the first team to lose by that rule,” Hughes said. “What are they going to say?” 

2020 has already thrown us plenty of curveballs, the changes to baseball will just be a couple more the sports world will have to adjust to. 

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Report: 6 Nationals among players MLB didn't test for COVID-19 before flight from Dominican Republic

Report: 6 Nationals among players MLB didn't test for COVID-19 before flight from Dominican Republic

One of two flights chartered by Major League Baseball from the Dominican Republic to Miami carried multiple players that tested positive for the coronavirus after arriving in the U.S., The Washington Post reported Thursday evening. None of the more than 160 players and staff members were tested by MLB for the disease prior to flying.

Among the passengers on those flights—which flew out of Santo Domingo on July 1—were Nationals players Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Wander Suero and Fernando Abad as well as two of their prospects in Luis Garcia and Joan Adon. All six players are isolating in D.C. and one of them, The Post reported, tested positive for the coronavirus during intake screening July 2.

The Nationals announced Sunday that two players had tested positive upon arriving to D.C. and were in isolation. In addition to the six players who flew from the D.R., Howie Kendrick, Starlin Castro and Roenis Elías were absent from practice at Nationals Park this week. Although Castro returned to the field Thursday, Washington has yet to give any updates on the remaining players not cleared for play.

RELATED: MIKE RIZZO SAYS ‘I COULDN’T LIVE WITH MYSELF IF WE WENT ON HAPHAZARDLY’

“We’re still waiting to hear about those other guys,” manager Davey Martinez said in a Zoom press conference Thursday. “But they’re working diligently, MLB and our medical staff, to get those guys cleared. Hopefully, we’ll get them soon.”

The lack of testing prior to those flights was a result of insufficient resources in the D.R. to accommodate the number of people who were to board, The Post reported. The news comes three days after the Nationals opted to cancel practice due to test results taking over 72 hours to come in. General manager Mike Rizzo issued a strong statement that afternoon stressing the importance of quick testing.

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“We cannot have our players and staff work at risk,” Rizzo wrote. “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.”

MLB’s 2020 season is scheduled to begin July 23, when the Nationals are set to host the New York Yankees on Opening Night.

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