Matheny pondering look of workouts, games

May 7th, 2020

KANSAS CITY -- Royals manager Mike Matheny gets his information about a possible restart to the season from reliable sources, such as his boss, general manager Dayton Moore.

But Matheny does allow himself to ponder and entertain some of the rumors floating around about restart plans.

"I'm listening to all of the ones that say we're going to play and none of the ones that say anything differently," Matheny said in a Zoom call with reporters Wednesday.

But seriously, one area that Matheny and other MLB managers are giving much thought to is how teams will function in the clubhouse and dugout, and on the playing field if and when the season resumes.

"That's the one topic [MLB] hit us with last week when we had all the managers online," Matheny said. "It was about starting the mental gymnastics of what it might look like even with a Spring Training 2.0. What can we do to have social distancing, how can we minimize the gatherings in similar places, whether it's in the training room or weight room? Then, how can we spread out the workouts but still get the workouts we need to get done? Those are the questions we need to find answers to."

Playing games with social distancing also presents issues that need to be resolved, Matheny said, like when first basemen are holding runners on.

"The one around first base is a legitimate conversation because of the first baseman holding the runner on," Matheny said. "And it will be hard for the first-base coach, like Rusty [Kuntz], not being in there and engaging. But those are fixable. Maybe there will be an extra set of signs from the third-base coach for the runner. But there are things you can't get away from, like a first baseman holding the runner on.

"Some of the fraternizing you see around the bases, you'll just have to give it some space. Everyone is missing interaction … but this isn't going to be forever. Just do whatever you have to do -- masks or you name it. We have to do it."

The other obvious concern is the proximity of the home-plate umpire and the catcher.

"The catchers won't have to move [in terms of being near the hitter]," Matheny said. "There's enough social distancing there. But umpires, that's going to be a huge deal, because over time, they have gradually gotten closer to the catcher to get a better view. There's going to be some differences and mechanical adjustments that need to be made there."

Matheny remains certain that baseball will come up with a plan that works, even if it's not perfect.

"We hear from the Commissioner's office," Matheny said, "and the message has been consistent: They are trying, we are trying, everything possible to make something work to get out there and play.

"This is a shock, not just to baseball, but to our world. When we do have the privilege of coming back, and I think it will be sooner rather than later, it's not going to have to look a certain way. We'll do what we have to do with the understanding that everyone is going to have to make some sacrifices."