LOS ANGELES -- While the Dodgers balance the newfound complications that come with a shortened 60-game schedule and an assortment of rule changes in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the biggest challenge is going to be keeping everyone in the organization healthy.
Major League Baseball has mandated a number of health and safety protocols to minimize the spread of COVID-19, such as regular testing/temperature checks, masks in the dugout for non-playing personnel, limited clubhouse access and heightened social distancing, as well as bans on spitting and celebratory hugs, high-fives and fist bumps.
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President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said on Thursday that there have been positive COVID-19 tests within the organization but did not specify whether that group includes any players.
“[This] is very much a personal thing that, if any want to share, then obviously it’s up to them,” said Friedman. “But I think from my standpoint, our standpoint, we’re not comfortable doing that.”
As of Thursday, Friedman was not sure whether COVID-19-related issues would delay anyone’s ability to report on time to the Dodgers’ summer camp, which is holding its first formal workout on July 3. Both Friedman and manager Dave Roberts have been in touch with players, some of whom have expressed trepidation about playing this year.
“We definitely have had conversations with a few players that are concerned,” said Friedman. “Not necessarily rising to the level of opting out, but just as we see, with people in our own lives who we talk to, they kind of all fall on a continuum. Our clubhouse, our staff, our front office is not that different. And so, for the people that are really concerned, we want to help and be around and try to help with what is a really personal decision.
“I think we’ll learn more about this over the weekend and next week, but obviously, we would welcome those conversations with any players and/or staff.”
COVID-19 is concerning for anyone, but its effects are especially worrying for people who are immunocompromised. Roberts, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2010, spoke of his own worries about how his history as a cancer survivor might affect his ability to manage during a pandemic. According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, certain cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, can weaken patients’ immune systems, though most recover following the cessation of treatment.
That’s something that varies from patient to patient, of course. Roberts, who was deemed cancer-free nine years ago, was told by a physician that he is not at higher risk due to his medical history.
“Obviously, knowing my history, I’m still very aware of it, but I feel very confident in going back,” said Roberts.
As of Wednesday, Los Angeles County had more confirmed COVID-19 cases than anywhere else in the country. Cases are also on the rise in Arizona and Texas, where the Dodgers are scheduled to travel this season. Roberts and Friedman intend to remain in touch with players about the natural concerns that may arise from this.
Alternate training locations
The Dodgers are set to play their home games at Dodger Stadium in 2020, but they are going to need a secondary spot for their extended pool of players to train during the season. The club is in the process of finalizing the University of Southern California as that location, Friedman said on Thursday.
“My full expectation is that we will start at USC, and then at some point, when students start potentially arriving on campus, we’re looking into, most likely, going to Rancho [Cucamonga, home of the Dodgers’ Class A affiliate] at that point in time,” said Friedman. “But we’re still kind of working out those final details.”
Just six miles away from Dodger Stadium, USC’s Dedeaux Stadium is a more convenient location than LoanMart Field in Rancho Cucamonga, which is nearly 50 miles east of Chavez Ravine. However, USC plans to hold in-person classes this fall starting in August, putting a limit on how long the Dodgers can use those facilities.
The future of the All-Star Game in L.A.
The Dodgers were looking forward to hosting the 2020 All-Star Game on July 14, and took on a massive stadium renovation project to mark the occasion.
Given that the season is not expected to start until July 23 or 24, that date is certainly no longer in play. Whether there will be any sort of all-MLB showcase this season -- and whether that will take place at Dodger Stadium -- remains to be determined.
“We’re still awaiting definitive word from Major League Baseball,” said Friedman. “I think once we get the schedule for this year, I think there will be a lot of clarity on that.”
Atlanta’s Truist Park is set to host the 2021 All-Star Game, but no venues are confirmed for 2022-25.
Facing the Astros
The Dodgers were not originally slated to play the Astros in 2020. But with the modified schedule including 20 Interleague games against their regional counterparts in the American League West, that has changed.
When the teams play, it will be their first meeting since Commissioner Rob Manfred released his findings about the Astros’ illegal use of technology to steal signs against the Dodgers in the 2017 World Series. Roberts declined to comment on the subject, while Friedman opted for a forward-moving approach.
“We talked about this a lot in Spring Training,” said Friedman. “It’s human nature to go back and relive and think about 2017. It just couldn’t be less productive at this point in time. From our standpoint, they’re a good, talented team. It’s about beating them in 2020. It’s the only thing we can kind of control at this point, and it’s where our energy is best put.”
Sarah Wexler is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter @SarahWexler32.