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March Mania

Twins plan for life in a holding pattern

Barbara Rendino from New York on Sunday, March 15, takes a photo of George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., where the spring training game between the Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees has been canceled due to the COVID-19 virus. Kim Klement / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — Baseball has its first reported case of coronavirus.

A Yankees minor leaguer has tested positive for COVID-19, per reports, and the results were announced on the same day that Major League Baseball reportedly sent a memo to clubs strongly recommending that players practice social distancing, and discouraging players from gathering at spring training facilities.

“The risk of a player in a Club facility contracting the virus is real, and we must implement protocols to protect the safety and well-being of our players and staff members,” the memo reads.

A day earlier, the Twins, sensing that, and in an effort to get players to where they would be most comfortable, made the decision after a team meeting to mostly depart their Fort Myers, Fla., facility. What comes next for players is relatively unknown as they stay in a holding pattern.

Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said on a Saturday night, March 14, conference call that about 20-25 players would remain at the facility.

The Twins also have a number of staff members who live in the area, including hitting coach Edgar Varela, director of strength and conditioning Ian Kadish and Triple-A manager Toby Gardenhire.

“What daily life will be like, the way you guys probably have heard or would envision what our January looks like here, which is to have some of the local staff here, mostly weight rooms,” Falvey said Saturday. “Obviously. baseball equipment is available if guys want to go play catch. We have some pitching coordinators here. We’ll certainly have a few guys, I’m sure, who can catch. But at the same time, I don’t think it will be much more than that. It will be a skeleton crew of sorts.”

Before parting ways, Falvey said pitching coach Wes Johnson touched base with the pitchers on his staff about their throwing programs. A lot of the team’s starting pitchers were at three to four innings in their progressions and Falvey said the hope would be that they could maintain that level through bullpens to keep their arms as fresh as possible, even though they won’t be in game situations.

Falvey said he anticipates players would work out a few times a week in the interim and his expectation would be that the team checks in with players fairly regularly throughout the next week or so and continue to evaluate from that point.

Designated hitter Nelson Cruz posted videos of himself working out on social media Sunday with bands, urging people to work out but avoid gyms, eat healthy and wash their hands.

“We have a way of electronically communicating to make sure those guys are giving that feedback,” Falvey said. “But the further you get out, and as weeks go by and you don’t have true game activity and baseball activity, we certainly feel like we would need another extended ramp-up, so to speak, to get back and ready to play games.”

When a spring training part two would actually happen is obviously still up in the air as MLB consistently monitors the situation. The longer the break stretches on, the longer the ramp-up period might need to be.

MLB has officially delayed the start of the season by two weeks to April 9 and has yet to make a subsequent announcement, but the expectation is that it will be much longer than that, leaving players in limbo for the time being.

“We’ll be attentive to each player, whether they’re here or not,” Falvey said. “We’ll be attentive to what their weekly plan looks like and what resources they need for those plans.”

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