Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Wearing mask, Gregorius focused on safety

Phillies shortstop's kidney disorder makes him high risk
@ToddZolecki
July 15, 2020

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies shortstop Didi Gregorius has his reasons for wearing a mask on the field this season. “It’s for everybody’s safety,” Gregorius said Wednesday. But it is more than that. Gregorius has a chronic kidney disease, which he said makes him one of baseball’s high-risk players during the COVID-19

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies shortstop Didi Gregorius has his reasons for wearing a mask on the field this season.

“It’s for everybody’s safety,” Gregorius said Wednesday.

But it is more than that. Gregorius has a chronic kidney disease, which he said makes him one of baseball’s high-risk players during the COVID-19 pandemic. FOXSports.com wrote in 2013 that Gregorius missed the first couple months of the 2011 season, when he played in Cincinnati’s farm system, because his kidney malfunctioned. Gregorius’ kidney “doesn’t work 100 percent every time,” he said then.

A routine physical discovered elevated blood pressure, cholesterol and protein levels. Gregorius, who felt fatigued, said the levels were so high that MLB tested him for performance-enhancing substances.

“It will be there for life,” Gregorius said. “I had a really good conversation with the [Phillies'] doctors here. They ask me every day what they can do to make it better for me, so there has been really good communication. We are trying to go through the guidelines and trying to do everything we can do to stay safe. So that’s why people see me walking around with a mask on and stuff. I am keeping myself safe, wearing a mask everywhere I go. I’ve got to keep it on me all the time.”

Gregorius did not say if he considered opting out of the 2020 season because of his condition. High-risk players who opt out are entitled to their full prorated salary, which in this case is $5.18 million, and full service time. But he said he feels comfortable being at the ballpark.

“Everybody is following the rules and doing everything, so I’m really comfortable here,” Gregorius said.

Gregorius, Jean Segura, Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, Logan Forsythe and Ronald Torreyes have worn masks at different times during Summer Camp. Gregorius and Torreyes wear them whenever they are on the field.

“I mean, I can’t force a person to wear their mask,” Gregorius said. “I’d prefer for everybody to wear it. You’ve got to get the right one, too, while you're playing so you can breathe normal, because if you are wearing a mask and you can’t breathe, it’s going to be hard to for you to breathe through it. So get the right one. ...

“This one is pretty good. It has a built-in filter and everything in it, so it feels good for me. I think wearing it will be normal for me. I am playing in it right now so I can get accustomed to it.”

Gregorius signed a one-year, $14 million contract with the Phillies in December. He could not find the multi-year deal he preferred following his recovery from Tommy John surgery with the Yankees, which caused him to miss much of 2019. He hoped a strong 162-game season could boost his stock.

A 60-game season complicates matters.

“For me, that's out of my control right now,” Gregorius said. “I have to focus on these 60 games right now and see what we can do with that. That speaks in the end. So I don't have to worry about that. I will just try to play as many games as I can right now.”

Gregorius believes he is ready. He returned to his home in Curaçao on the last day citizens could return to the country. He said he practiced almost every day with other players on the island before baseball resumed in the United States.

“It was kind of like Spring Training for us down there because we were one of the safer areas,” Gregorius said.

Gregorius did not limit himself to just baseball. He is a man of many talents and skills. He speaks Dutch, English, Spanish and Papiamento. He started to learn Japanese when he played with Yankees. He is an avid photographer and animator. He taught himself to play piano.

“I started tattooing people,” Gregorius said about his most recent break. “Friends and family. That was it. Baseball and tattooing. My drawings got me into it. People always said you can draw pretty good. You should get into tattooing. I started last year in the playoffs. It felt good. I did almost my whole leg. Now, I’m doing other people.”

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .