MLB relocating Puerto Rico series to Miami

May 6th, 2016

MIAMI -- Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association on Friday announced that the two games between the Miami Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates set for later this month in San Juan, Puerto Rico, have been relocated. They will be played at Marlins Park, with tickets going on sale at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday.

The decision to move the games from Hiram Bithorn Stadium in Puerto Rico to Miami came after players raised concerns over the Zika virus.

"The Pirates are disappointed that we will not be playing in San Juan this season. We very much looked forward to this opportunity," Pirates president Frank Coonelly said in a statement. "However, the health and safety of our traveling party must be and is our first priority. As a result, the Pirates fully support the decision by the Commissioner and the Players Association to postpone the trip to San Juan."

Marlins manager Don Mattingly said: "You trust the process, that the union and the league are going to do what's best for everyone, and make sure they take care of everyone. On the other side of that, I'm a little disappointed. I haven't been to Puerto Rico in a while. I've played winter ball there."

Before deciding to move the May 30-31 games to South Florida, MLB and the Players Association, along with the Marlins and Pirates, had extensive dialogue regarding the potential risks of the two-day trip.

Additionally, the Marlins and Pirates had meetings with officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to address the effects of Zika virus, which is spread through mosquito bites.

"We are saddened by the circumstances in Puerto Rico and elsewhere that led to this decision," Coonelly said. "We are hopeful that the public health institutions can quickly eradicate the health risks that are regrettably affecting the Puerto Rican people. We look forward to an opportunity in the near future to return to Puerto Rico to play before the great Pirates fans who were so excited for these games."

The Marlins and Pirates will now play four games -- May 30-June 2 -- at Marlins Park.

The two games were scheduled for Puerto Rico in order to honor the legacy of Roberto Clemente.

The Zika virus, which has been a growing problem in many countries throughout Central and South America, is linked to birth defects, and puts at risk women who are pregnant and couples who are attempting to conceive.

"When we had the meeting, there were some facts and things that were shocking," said Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler, the team's MLBPA representative. "Things we didn't know going into the meeting."

A joint release by MLB and the MLBPA stated: "After discussing the issue with all involved parties, and consulting with federal and Puerto Rican government officials at the highest levels, Commissioner [Rob] Manfred decided that the players who objected to the trip because of their specific family situations should not be forced to travel to Puerto Rico. Because too many regulars on both Clubs fell into that category, Commissioner Manfred had no choice but to relocate the games.

"Commissioner Manfred and the MLBPA fully understand the disappointment by those in Puerto Rico to the relocation of the games. MLB and the Players Association did everything possible to adequately address the concerns raised by players and still play the games in Puerto Rico, but despite extensive efforts, they were unable to develop a workable solution. The parties will continue to support the growth of the game in Puerto Rico, where an outstanding baseball tradition has long made the island an important venue for the game. MLB looks forward to returning to play games in Puerto Rico in the near future."

In place of the games, MLB will stage several youth baseball and community events in Puerto Rico later this month. Manfred and several former MLB players are scheduled to attend. Also, both MLB and the MLBPA will make contributions to the CDC Foundation to assist the efforts to eradicate Zika in Puerto Rico.

"It's an unfortunate situation," Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole said. "The issue was tough to work through. But when we sat down with the CDC and they gave us a thorough presentation, we felt that the risk to the players and the players' families was just too significant to proceed."

The Marlins last played regular-season games in Puerto Rico in 2010, when they faced the Mets.

"You like going to different places," said Mattingly, who managed overseas when he was with the Dodgers. "We've started the season in Japan. We've played in Australia. I think it is fun to take baseball all over. From that point, you're a little disappointed. But you know that the process is going to run its course and they're going to make a good decision for us."