The Orioles ended their first series of the year in Boston just before 5 p.m. Sunday with a 7-4 win and a series victory. There were good feelings all around the club, as the Orioles had rallied from their horrific Opening Day loss to come out of the weekend tied for the AL East lead.
But what waited for them was one of the biggest challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has put on Major League Baseball.
Before Sunday’s games took place, the Miami Marlins learned that four positive tests were returned. They played the Phillies anyway. And on Monday morning, there was a full-on outbreak in the Marlins’ organization — and the Orioles were set to play the Marlins on four-straight days.
So the Orioles, who had flown to Miami on Sunday, sat in their hotel in Miami and wait for further instruction.
“It was a little unnerving to sit there and just see everything that was unfolding and how quickly it was being reported,” first baseman Chris Davis said Tuesday on a conference call with reporters. “I think going into this, there was a good possibility that something like this was going to happen. I think we all kind of in the back of our minds knew that there was a possibility of something like this happening, but you hope for the best.”
After the team’s victory over the Red Sox, the Orioles traveled to Miami on Sunday night to play two games scheduled against the Marlins on Monday and Tuesday. There were two more games against the Marlins scheduled on Wednesday and Thursday at Camden Yards.
But while the Orioles waited in Miami for their opponents, the Marlins stayed in Philadelphia as they awaited more test results.
Monday morning, 13 positive tests were added to the list. And as MLB discussed what the proper plan of action was, the Orioles, like the rest of baseball, waited.
“Woke up in the morning, there was some reports, some texts started going out about some rumors,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde explained. “We were waiting to hear. Again some more conversations about what’s happening, we’re still waiting, we’re still on hold. The team is on hold.”
Baltimore waited in its hotel for further instruction on what the plan was, still prepared to face Miami that week if the schedule called for it.
“I communicated with our club that, ‘We’re still preparing to play, but we have no idea what’s going on, just be by your phone. Be ready. We’re not leaving our rooms, we’re not leaving the hotel,’” Hyde recalled.
As the day wore on, more and more rumors swirled about what the future held for the Orioles this week.
“We were preparing for the Marlins, to play the Marlins,” Hyde said. “I prepared in the morning, I was still going through all my stuff like we were going to play the Marlins, but knowing that there might be change. I was following the reports with everybody else. It’s not easy to not know. We’re just hanging around not knowing what’s going on. I almost feel like you’re sitting around in your clubhouse waiting to play. I don’t know how else to explain it.”
Late Monday morning, MLB announced both the Orioles-Marlins and Yankees-Phillies games, scheduled for that night, were postponed.
Hyde cracked he was able to enjoy his lunch (a cheeseburger, with sweet potato fries) as he waited for what the official word from the league was. And later Monday night, the Orioles left Miami for Baltimore all but ensuring there wouldn’t be a game in Miami this week.
Tuesday morning, with the Orioles in Baltimore, news leaked that the Nationals had taken a player vote and elected not to travel to Miami for a weekend series.
“We didn’t take an actual vote or tally or anything, but there were definitely discussions of everyone’s concerns with playing the Marlins,” Davis said. “Obviously, being in Miami for a night, we were a little concerned about that, but I think if anything, it really just reiterated how important it is to follow these safety protocols and these guidelines that have been laid out for us.”
Late Tuesday afternoon, MLB confirmed the scheduled changes that the Orioles would face the Yankees on Wednesday and Thursday. In a bit of irony, the Orioles’ originally scheduled home opener in March was against the Yankees with Gerrit Cole as the projected starter. Cole is set to start on Wednesday.
“It’s been an unusual day or two for sure, but we’re happy to be home, we’re looking forward to our home Opening Day tomorrow,” Hyde said. “There was so much uncertainty with everything, and yesterday was just kind of a crazy day where we’re on the phone a lot, finding things out by thor or the minute like you guys were. It was just a, ‘Hang tight and we’ll see what happens.’ Now we’re back in Baltimore and we’re looking forward to having our home opener.”
The finalization of the Orioles’ schedule was the conclusion, at least for now, of the frantic 48 hours that the organization had to endure. The team held a workout Tuesday night, in the first normal, or as close as normal can get, event for the team in two days.
From Boston to Miami to Baltimore the team traveled up and down the coast since Sunday evening and has yet to play a single game. Those two days, though, weren’t a fun experience for anyone in the organization.
Rather, it was a harsh lesson as to just how unpredictable the 2020 MLB season has been, and still could be.
“It’s definitely an uneasy feeling,” Hyde said of his thoughts over the last two days. “My thoughts were honestly with the people that were over there. I have friends on their staff...With our situation, it was just a wait-and-see. I don’t know what else to say, really. It was just kind of a numb feeling of, ‘What’s gonna happen?’”
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