As Major League Baseball and the players association continue to discuss how to uniformly handle the league’s shutdown, the league sent a memo to its 30 clubs Sunday strongly discouraging group workouts and emphasizing social distancing to curtail the spread of COVID-19.
The recommendations were issued after a minor league player on the New York Yankees tested positive for the coronavirus — the first known case in baseball. The minor leaguer, whose name was not released, was tested after notifying the club of a fever Friday morning, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.
The Yankees said the player had been reporting to the team’s minor league complex and was not in contact with anyone in its major league facility, which is about a mile away in Tampa, Fla. However, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told reporters the only coronavirus test the team has administered is the positive one. The team’s minor league complex will remain closed, and all Yankees minor leaguers must self-quarantine in their hotel rooms for the next two weeks.
“The risk of a player in a Club facility contracting the virus is real, and we must implement protocols to protect the safety and well-being of our players and staff members,” the league memo states. “In addition, we must recognize that there is the potential for further federal and state restrictions that will impact our operations, including restrictions on travel.”
The league and players association have been in discussions since Friday to address several uncertainties triggered by MLB’s decision to suspend operations. Commissioner Rob Manfred is expected to hold a conference call at noon EDT Monday to update the 30 clubs.
The development came after players on 40-man rosters were given three options Friday: Stay at their team’s spring training facility, travel to their team’s base city, or go to their offseason homes. A few teams, including the Yankees, had voted to stay together in Tampa to continue preparing for the season.
Teams are still required to keep their spring training facilities open for players on their 40-man rosters. Clubs are not required to provide normal services, such as meals, but are expected to continue giving players access to medical care and to pay daily meal allowances.
Teams are not allowed to hold or organize any player activities, including group workouts or skill sessions. Clubs are encouraged to stagger the time players spend in facilities and limit the number of people working with players at any one time. Individual workouts are still permitted.
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The league “strongly” recommended that clubs send “nonessential staff” to their home cities, particularly people who have preexisting medical conditions and those older than 60. Club physicians and athletic trainers were instructed to check in with players and staff members at least “every few days.”
Although facilities remain open to players on 40-man rosters, most minor leaguers were instructed to go home. The Dodgers sent their minor leaguers home but kept players who were rehabbing from injuries, live in places they can’t travel to (such as Venezuela) or live in areas at high risk for the coronavirus in Asia and the United States.