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Antonetti Q&A: How is Tribe's 2020 shaping up?

@MandyBell02
June 26, 2020

CLEVELAND -- The process of trying to run, manage and coach a baseball organization has not been easy over the past few months, but the Indians have done their best to make it a learning experience. “I think someone said it really well the other day,” Indians president of baseball

CLEVELAND -- The process of trying to run, manage and coach a baseball organization has not been easy over the past few months, but the Indians have done their best to make it a learning experience.

“I think someone said it really well the other day,” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “'Never let a good crisis go to waste.'”

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Through this, the club has figured out operations that can better help it in the offseason, including how to operate remotely, how coaches and support staffs can connect with players and how to coach from afar. But their biggest takeaway has been that they all share the same passion.

“I would say,” Antonetti said, “the overwhelming sentiment from talking to players, coaches and all of us within the organization, it's reaffirmed just how much we all love baseball and how much we miss it, and I don't think we'll take it for granted when we all get back together and start playing again.”

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As their players begin to funnel into Cleveland before the beginning of summer camp on Wednesday, Antonetti addressed a handful of topics Friday afternoon that have created a lot of questions. Here’s what he had to say:

Have any players tested positive for COVID-19?

Antonetti said a few players have tested positive at their homes, in the Dominican Republic or at the team’s training facility in Goodyear, Ariz., but most have recovered.

“The encouraging thing on that front is that all of those cases have been isolated and there has not been any spread within our environment,” Antonetti said. “Thankfully, all of those individuals have either recovered or are only showing mild symptoms.”

Will any players opt out of the season?

Players have the option to opt out of the 2020 season if they or a family member are in a high-risk category. A big question has been whether Carlos Carrasco, who battled leukemia throughout last season, would choose to sit this season out. As of Friday, Antonetti said that he had not been informed by any Indians players that they intend to exercise that right.

“We have talked with every high-risk individual to have an individual conversation with them to explain the risks of returning to the environment, the protocols that are in place to try to ensure health and well-being for everyone and have given all of them the option of whether or not they would choose to participate,” Antonetti said. “We would be fully supportive if anyone felt this wasn’t the right environment for them to participate.”

What are the logistics of summer camp?

Antonetti said when players arrive Wednesday, it will not feel like Day 1 of Spring Training; it will be the equivalent to Day 26 of Spring Training. It’s been more than three months since the first round of camp was forced to shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the Indians feel confident in the work their players put in during the hiatus to be ready to pick up where they left off.

However, camp will have to be more spread out than usual. Players will have to do more outdoor activities than indoor, they’ll utilize the home and visiting clubhouses and will practice in smaller groups. Their first on-field workout is scheduled for July 3.

“It will look different than a normal Spring Training,” Antonetti said. “There are literally changes all across the board on how we will operate and prepare. I’m sure you’ve read, guys using their own baseballs and having a wet rag rather than licking their fingers. You will see things that are noticeably different.”

How will the Indians balance their 60-man player pool?

Teams have until 4 p.m. ET Sunday to set their 60-man player pool rosters, and the Tribe expects to fill the majority of those spots with players who will provide depth to the Major League team. The handful of leftover spots will go to a few of their prospects they want to receive some developmental reps. Those players will utilize the Indians’ alternate (Class A) site in Lake County.

“They’ll be playing intersquad games against each other to try to simulate activity,” Antonetti said. “Then we’ll have another group of players that we’re going to have to coach remotely, and I think that’s been a big initiative that we’ve spent a lot of time on over the last few weeks and few months, is how do we make sure we do the best we can under the circumstances to make sure every player continues on his developmental path so they get the most possible out of 2020?”

Will there be fans in the stands at some point this season?

As of Friday, the Indians have no plans to have fans in the stands this season, but the idea isn’t completely off the table.

“That’s really going to be up to the state of Ohio, and they have to give us some guidance on what they might be comfortable with,” Antonetti said. “Then it would be up to us to adapt a plan in which we could do that in a safe way. Given all the unknowns, our priority right now is making sure we can get all of our staff and players into Cleveland, get them on their way to preparing and starting games and then reassess what the opportunities may be to play in front of fans. But right now, our focus is to try and get up and running.”

What’s the level of confidence in the 2020 season?

Because the coronavirus is still present, there is still concern among all involved that the season will not be able to be completed. However, Antonetti believes the protocols put in place by Major League Baseball will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 while players are at the ballpark.

“I'm hopeful,” Antonetti said. “I think what we've learned is the virus is still very real and very present, and I think we have to respect that, and to the extent we let our guard down, that's going to diminish our chances of being successful. Part of our messaging has been that we need to stay consistent, no matter what's happening externally, no matter if it looks like things might be subsiding or rates are going down, we need to continue to make sure we're adhering by the best practices and protocols to give ourselves and the league the best chance of getting through it.

“I will say, the protocols that are in place are very extensive. I think we can do a good job of mitigating the chance of spread within our environment. The big question will be how much are we getting exposure outside of our environment, whether it's risks or injuries. Hopefully we can manage those as well.”

Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.