ST. PETERSBURG -- After the Rays' 5-2 win over the Braves on Tuesday, Tampa Bay will pack its bags and head to Atlanta for its first road trip of the season. With all the necessary health protocols, being on the road will look different in 2020.
For starters, the players and staff will be wearing masks on the plane, and they will look to have as much social distancing as possible. When they arrive at each city -- Atlanta and Baltimore comprise the Rays' first multicity trip of the season -- they are encouraged to stay in the team hotel as much as possible. No Uber or public transportation is allowed, limiting the amount of places a player can go.
Through Summer Camp and the first homestand, the Rays have been able to stay healthy for the most part. But they know that the real challenge will start on Wednesday, when they begin their two-game series against the Braves.
“We do feel confident that we’re going to take the necessary steps to keep everybody as safe as possible,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “But that doesn’t change for us to lessen the concerns about getting on a plane, going into a hotel and going into an opposing ballpark.
“We’ve done such a good job thus far, but we’ve been at home the whole time. It’ll be our adjustment when we get off the plane Wednesday morning, something new to us that we’ll learn as we go, but putting precaution at the forefront of everything.”
“I think it’s very eye-opening to see how quickly this can really spread,” said catcher Mike Zunino, who has been wearing a mask behind the plate. “Once you start implementing travel, integrating with other teams, things that, you know, there’s a lot of risk that becomes involved. It just kind of reminds us to be extremely careful and take all the precautions that we can to continue to be safe and stay on the field.”
This season, teams will be allowed to carry up to three players on the taxi squad during road trips. On the first road trip of the season, the Rays will take Anthony Banda and Daniel Robertson. Players on the taxi squad are not active, but they would be the replacements in case of an injury or a positive coronavirus test.
Banda and Robertson were two of the final cuts before Summer Camp. Lefty Banda could provide multiple innings, while Robertson has the versatility to play multiple positions in the infield.
Pitching plans in Atlanta
The Rays will start Morton on Wednesday against the Braves, while Ryan Yarbrough will get the nod on Thursday in the finale. The starters for the series against the Orioles are still to be determined, but if the Rays elect to stay with the same order in the rotation, Blake Snell would start Friday, Tyler Glasnow on Saturday and Yonny Chirinos on Sunday.