Baseball players got a sense of what the game will be like without fans in the stands upon returning for workouts last week.
They’re getting a more realistic glimpse this week as teams begin holding scrimmages.
Yes, it’s very strange.
“It was surreal. … just sitting behind the dish at a major league stadium with major league players on the field and no one else there and playing in competition,” Milwaukee Brewers general manager David Stearns said Thursday. “Occasionally, you’ll see that for a small BP when media isn’t around or cameras aren’t around, but it was really weird to see Christian Yelich in the batter’s box in a major league stadium in competition in an empty ballpark.”
Baseball returned for workouts last week after the season was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic during spring training. Teams have started ramping up their workouts in preparation for a 60-game season set to begin on July 23.
The season will start without fans in the stands and will likely remain that way for a while as coronavirus hotspots continue to pop up across the country.
“We’ll remember this season, going through it, for a long time because these are very unusual feelings for all of us to experience when we’re watching games like this,” Stearns said. “In terms of the actual game and the way that the game played out, I think it looked like normal baseball.”
Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said All-Star slugger Joey Gallo and lefty reliever Brett Martin are both feeling good but still haven’t been cleared to start working out with the team.
Both tested positive for the coronavirus during intake testing last week. Daniels said Gallo was still asymptomatic and that Martin, who has Type 1 diabetes, is feeling better every day after initially having mild symptoms, including congestion and fatigue.
“I am hopeful they won’t be out much longer,” Daniels said, without elaborating.
One of the new rules during the pandemic is the prohibition of spitting to prevent the virus from spreading.
Following the rule is not as easy as it sounds. Players have actually been practicing not spitting.
“That’s a big thing for me. I do dip some tobacco. I’ll have to change that up, maybe go to gum more often,” Florida’s Garrett Cooper said. “That’s the natural thing for a baseball player to do, spit. That’s what they’ve been doing their whole lives — gum, sunflower seeds, a lot of guys dip tobacco. It’s part of your normal protocol. Maybe it helps people calm down. I’ve caught myself a few times. I start to spit and go, ‘Oh man, I can’t do this now.’ It’s something you’ve got to get used to.”
Altanta starter Mike Foltynewicz looked sharp in three innings of a controlled scrimmage, which he credited to workouts he participated in at nearby Campbell High School with Mike Soroka and Sean Newcomb, during the long break. He’s been throwing six times a week and pitching bullpens.
“We got really lucky to be able to go to that school and throw every day,” Foltynewicz said. “It was difficult just to get in gyms and get in the parks to throw. It was tough. Me, Newk, Mike. We had a bunch of guys come in, left- and right-(handed hitters), just to stay ready. At any time MLB could’ve started us back up and we could’ve had to ship right out to spring training.”
AP Sports Writers Steve Megargee in Milwaukee, Stephen Hawkins in Dallas and George Henry in Atlanta contributed to this report.
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