CLEARWATER, Fla. -- What comes next? Nobody knows.
The Phillies, like everybody else, learned Thursday afternoon that Major League Baseball suspended the rest of Spring Training and delayed the beginning of the 2020 season at least two weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic. Phillies general manager Matt Klentak addressed players, coaches, athletic training staff and other personnel in a Friday morning meeting at Spectrum Field. Everybody was told to stay in town through the weekend, when they would learn more. But, a few hours later, following a meeting between MLB and the MLB Players Association, the Phillies started to call players to tell them that they could leave, if they desired.
MLB made it official Friday night when they announced that “Spring Training camps will be suspended, effective immediately. Major League players can elect to return home, remain in their Spring Training cities, or return to their Club’s home city. This step is in the best interests of players, employees and the communities who host Spring Training. MLB will continue to monitor ongoing events and undertake the precautions and best practices recommended by public health experts. We send our best wishes to all the individuals and communities who have been impacted by coronavirus.”
It is unclear how many Phillies might remain in Clearwater, but an expected meeting Saturday should provide more clarity. While other teams are still trying to work out who stays and who leaves, the Yankees voted unanimously to remain in Tampa and continue to train.
“Look, this is something that I think we’ll remember for the rest of our lives,” Rhys Hoskins said Thursday. “It’s something that’s kind of stopping the world as we know it. … We’re kind of in unchartered territory. I think health and safety have to come first and foremost. We’ve kind of seen that around the rest of the sports industry and throughout really every other sector throughout the world, too.”
“We greatly appreciate our fans’ patience and understanding during this unprecedented situation,” the Phillies said Friday in a statement. “The safety of our fans, organization, city and nation are the utmost importance and #1 priority. We are coordinating with Major League Baseball and government officials on next steps. Please continue to follow @phillies for the latest updates and developments.”
Here are some answers to questions Phillies fans might have following Thursday’s announcement:
When will the season start?
There is no official start date for the season at this time. What we do know is that the start of the season will be delayed at least two weeks. Opening Day had been scheduled for Thursday, March 26.
MLB will continue to evaluate ongoing events leading up to the start of the season. Guidance related to daily operations and workouts will be relayed to all 30 clubs in the coming days.
How will the schedule change to accommodate the late start?
According to the release sent by MLB, the league and teams have been preparing a variety of contingency plans regarding the 2020 regular-season schedule. MLB will announce the effects on the schedule at an appropriate time and will remain flexible as events warrant, with the hope of resuming normal operations as soon as possible.
What’s going to happen with the rest of Spring Training?
Forthcoming Spring Training games were canceled as of 4 p.m. ET on Thursday, and 2020 World Baseball Classic qualifying games scheduled in Tucson, Ariz., were postponed indefinitely.
What about Minor League Baseball?
Minor League Baseball announced Thursday that the start of the regular season, originally scheduled for April 9, will be delayed indefinitely.
I have tickets to the home opener and/or other games, what does this mean for me?
The Phillies are working on ticket issues. They said in a statement: “Information on our ticket policy for impacted regular-season games will be provided at a later date.”
How might this affect my team once play resumes?
If the beginning of the season is delayed at least two weeks, it means play will not begin until April 9 at the earliest. The Phillies have a few injured players who could benefit from the delayed start. First, there is left fielder Andrew McCutchen, who is rehabbing from ACL surgery on his left knee. The Phillies said he would not be ready for the originally scheduled Opening Day on March 26, but they were hopeful he could return sometime in April.
Jake Arrieta experienced right shoulder stiffness Thursday against the Rays. He said he is not concerned, but any extra time to recover could help. Relief pitchers Seranthony Domínguez, Vìctor Arano and Tommy Hunter might miss fewer or no games at all. The Phillies are crossing their fingers that the tightness in Domínguez’s right elbow is not serious, but that remains to be seen. Arano had been a possibility to make the Opening Day roster. Hunter seemed to be trending toward a mid-April return.
What are they saying?
“I know sports is very important to our country and obviously it employs a lot of people, too. People look forward to turning a game on. I know I do, and we’re going to be without that for a while. Again, I think it’s in our best interest to be safe rather than sorry, and eventually I believe we’ll all be back out there and the world will be normal again. But right now, we’re in a little pause.” -- Phillies manager Joe Girardi
“They have to do it, because I think family is more important than anything in sports. When you have a virus, you want to keep your family safe and the players, too. MLB made that decision today and I think it was the right decision. … My family is with me. It’s been stressful. I don’t want my kids out of the house, because that virus is everywhere. You can’t contain it. Especially when we play on the road and we take the bus, and we’re handing out waters and practicing and you have to run through a lot of people. Nobody knows who has that virus. It’s too dangerous.” -- Third baseman Jean Segura
“Take baseball, basketball, football and hockey out of it, and the health of everybody in the community and the organization is first and foremost. We’ll get back to baseball when it’s appropriate.” -- Arrieta