PITTSBURGH -- There are still a handful of Pirates players working out three times a week at the Pirate City training complex as they work their way back from injuries. Their schedule is different, a product of the coronavirus pandemic that has suspended baseball, and they’re working out in smaller groups than usual. But they’re still getting in-person treatment at a facility designed for baseball.
As for the rest of the roster? Well, they’re getting creative. Pirates director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said the club’s athletic training staff has done everything possible to stay in regular contact with players through FaceTime, Skype or Zoom -- whatever it takes to check in on how they’re staying in shape at home.
“It’s been fun,” Tomczyk said, “and it’s been frustrating at times.”
Speaking on a conference call with local reporters, Tomczyk said the club’s performance team divided its post-postponement plan into three phases. First, they checked in daily with players to gauge their general health and whether they’d been exposed to the coronavirus. After that, they tried to establish what each player had available to train: indoor/outdoor space, workout equipment, batting cages, tees, pitcher’s mounds, anything.
Now, the Pirates’ staff is mostly watching and advising from afar.
“What we’ve learned is the one-on-one [communication] -- FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, whatever means we have -- that’s way more powerful and impactful than a phone call, way more powerful and impactful than a text message,” Tomczyk said. “That personal interaction is going a long way. I know the players are appreciating that. I know our staff appreciates the connectivity that we are having with our players during this time.”
There will be new challenges as this downtime continues and players work to stay in shape without a return date in place. If and when teams can reconvene for a second Spring Training-type build-up, Tomczyk and his staff will have to be particularly careful to monitor for potential injuries or COVID-19 cases.
But having to worry about those issues also means getting to think about playing baseball, so the Pirates will welcome whatever plan is eventually deemed safe for all involved.
“All the ideas that are out there, I immediately get a sense of optimism and excitement because that’d mean we’re back to being with our teams and being with our players and taking a step closer to playing baseball,” Tomczyk said. “The challenges are what they are. I have the confidence and the trust not only in the leaders of the league itself, medically, but us as an organization. As long as we continue to be collaborative … I look forward to that opportunity of tackling those challenges together.”
• Right-hander Clay Holmes, who sustained a fractured right fibula during Spring Training, has completely healed. This week, Holmes is scheduled to throw off the mound for the first time since he took a Nelson Cruz grounder off his foot on Feb. 29.
“Very encouraging sign for Clay as he’s building back his arm and preparing his arm for whatever season lies ahead,” Tomczyk said.
• Left-hander Steven Brault (strained left shoulder) should resume throwing in three to five days, Tomczyk said. Brault is currently in what Tomczyk called the “advanced stages of his rehab,” taking part in throwing-like activities. Brault also missed a month last season with a strained throwing shoulder, so Tomczyk said this time allowed Brault to heal and address physical deficiencies that may have led to the injury.
• Right-hander Jameson Taillon (Tommy John surgery) resumed throwing this week at the Pirate City complex after taking one of two scheduled weeks off from his throwing program. Taillon will not return to the mound this year, no matter how long the season is delayed, but his rehabilitation is going as well as he and the club could hope.
“So far, so good,” Tomczyk said. “Everything is going without a glitch.”
• Right fielder Gregory Polanco was healthy throughout Spring Training, but Pirates officials noted that they would have to monitor the strength of his surgically repaired left shoulder throughout the year. Tomczyk said Polanco’s workouts are going well, even referencing a recent Instagram video in which Polanco was pulling bricks and throwing rocks.
“Our belief is that the shoulder is strong,” Tomczyk said. “We are watching video of him throwing both short and distances that stretch it out, that the outfielder needs to do. Very encouraged with how Gregory is taking advantage of his time.”