CLEVELAND -- As Indians players have taken turns fielding questions from the media in front of the Zoom camera during the first week of Summer Camp, each has stated the importance of not just practicing social distancing at Progressive Field, but also what can be done to stay safe away from the ballpark. It’s a concept outfielder Franmil Reyes now understands more than anyone.
On Saturday, Reyes attended a Fourth of July event without a mask, so he was instructed by the Indians to stay at home until he was tested for COVID-19 to assure he didn’t contract the virus in the group setting. The results came back negative, and he was able to rejoin his team at practice on Wednesday.
“You know what? They did the right thing they have to do to protect us,” Reyes said. “I really apologize, because I was not protecting myself and my teammates. I learned from it, and it won’t happen again. I really don’t want to stop practicing. I really apologize about that.”
Indians manager Terry Francona was clear that the team was not upset with Reyes; rather, that it understands these unique times call for safety regulations that players are adjusting to. However, the coaching staff can use this incident as an example of what will happen if everyone does not follow the current health guidelines. And Reyes is the first to admit that his experience is something that everyone should learn from.
“It’s really important to protect ourselves when you go out there,” Reyes said. “Not just thinking about you. You have a lot of teammates here that are ready to go, ready to give their 100 percent for the season, and it’s really risky when people do the things I was doing on Saturday. So, I really apologize, and I swear it won’t happen again.”
Reyes missed three days of camp awaiting his test results, valuable time during the three-week ramp-up period. During the pause in action from baseball due to the coronavirus outbreak, Reyes returned to the Dominican Republic and did not face live hitting until the first day of practice, in Cleveland last week. Despite that, he still says he feels just as powerful at the plate as he did during his red-hot spring campaign in February and March.
“The first day that we practiced and I saw a pitcher, that was the first pitcher I had seen, and I honestly felt so good,” Reyes said. “I know I have to keep working to get my timing again, but with this couple days before the season starts, I know I’m gonna feel better, and I’m going to do the same things I was doing last year and in Spring Training, too. I really worked hard in the offseason for it, and I feel really good, honestly.”
With Reyes expected to see more time in the outfield this season than he did in the second half of 2019, the bigger concern lies in his defensive abilities rather than his power at the plate. He spent more time working in the outfield than at the plate over the past three months and will likely compete against Domingo Santana to see who will get more time in the outfield or at designated hitter.
“He has worked at it; I'll give him credit for that,” Francona said of Reyes’ defense. “The hardest thing for me is, are you a better team with him playing the outfield? Or are you a better team with him DH-ing? That's going to be what it comes down to. … If we can put him in the outfield two or three times a week, that probably helps, especially in a season like this where we're starting 17 in a row out of the gate.”
Reyes didn’t get off to the hot start with his new team that he would’ve liked after being acquired by the Tribe last July, but he’s confident that his comfort in his second season with Cleveland will help his results in 2020.
“I feel really good with my teammates and my team,” Reyes said. “In baseball, confidence is one of the biggest things to have. That’s how I feel since I stepped into the clubhouse in Spring Training, knowing all of my teammates. … But I feel great. Honestly, my confidence is really high. I feel good with all these guys, with the support we give each other. It feels great.”