Tigers vote to stay, hold workouts in Florida

March 16th, 2020

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Though Spring Training is officially suspended across Major League Baseball due to the national emergency with the coronavirus pandemic, the Tigers -- at least the players -- are sticking around.

“We’re all staying,” pitcher and [Major League Baseball] Players Association team representative told MLB.com in a text message on Friday night. “We’re going to play it by ear. We just want to be ready when we get the all-clear.”

That’s the same message that Tigers general manager Al Avila received from Boyd after a Friday team meeting.

“The players were given the option to either go home or go to Detroit or stay here in Lakeland area and have use of the facilities,” Avila said during a Saturday morning conference call. “That was basically part of the meeting. They had a team meeting after my meeting with them. My understanding [is that] the entire team voted to stay.”

That includes players on the 40-man roster, such as Boyd and Miguel Cabrera, as well as non-roster invitees, such as Jordy Mercer and top prospects Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal.

They won’t be there this weekend. The Tigertown complex was already scheduled to be deep-cleaned on Saturday, though no Tigers player has tested positive for the coronavirus or shown symptoms to be tested according to Avila.

On Monday, the Tigertown complex transitioned back into offseason mode, with the weight room, training facilities and back fields open, the medical team on hand and Minor League coaches and instructors available.

“The Lakeland operations here in Tigertown is a year-round operation,” Avila said. “We send our injured/rehab players here. We have young players that stay here to do strength and conditioning work, eat under supervision of a nutritionist. So this is a year-round sort of academy, so it'll be run like that.”

There will be no formal workouts, but players will be free to work out on their own or in groups. The most important difference is that so many players will be there -- not just Major Leaguers, but 25-30 players from Minor League camp, though Minor League spring training is also suspended.

The Tigers will also adjust their staffing accordingly. Manager Ron Gardenhire is heading to his offseason home in Fort Myers to be with family, since there are no formal workouts. Several other Tigers coaches were making plans as of Saturday.

While several front office members will head home or elsewhere over the next few days, Avila said he is staying indefinitely to oversee the situation.

“[Clubhouse manager] Jim Schmakel will be here with his clubhouse guys, and depending on how it goes next week, we'll keep a small crew here to accommodate the players as best we can,” Avila said.

It’s a setup that could change as it becomes clearer how long baseball will have to wait to get going. For now, the 2020 season is delayed for at least eight weeks. Even if all players remain in camp through the delay, however long it is, Avila anticipates they’ll have another Spring Training to prepare.

"I couldn't predict what's going to happen,” Avila said. “My only thought is what they’re doing now would not be enough to gear up for a season. They're not formal workouts; they're informal. The players are basically doing it on their own. They’re going to be staying in shape on their own. I don't anticipate that, if it's a long period, that they're going to be ready to go and start the season tomorrow.”