Dodgers’ David Price opts out of playing this season over coronavirus concerns
Price is the first Dodgers player to publicly declare his intention to not play this season. He posted his announcement on social media Saturday while the Dodgers were holding their second official workout of training camp at Dodger Stadium. The team is scheduled to open its 60-game season July 23.
“After considerable thought and discussion with my family and the Dodgers, I have decided it is in the best interest of my health and my family’s health for me to not play this season,” wrote Price, whose two children are under the age of 4. “I will miss my teammates and will be cheering for them throughout the season and on to a World Series victory. I’m sorry I won’t be playing for you this year, but look forward to representing you next year.”
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said he regularly spoke to Price since Major League Baseball suspended its operations in mid-March. He said Price had contemplated whether to play “for a while now” and was leaning toward playing when he reported for the first day of training camp Wednesday.
“I think just talking to his family, he kind of arrived at this point,” Friedman said. “And my role in this has been just to support him through it and not have any rooting interest in what is a very personal decision.”
Price, who turns 35 next month, did not mention being at high risk for severe illness in his statement. If MLB’s medical personnel didn’t deem him high-risk, he will forfeit his entire prorated salary — about $11.8 million of the $32 million salary he would have made in a 162-game season — and service time for 2020. MLB ruled only high-risk players can opt out and receive their full prorated salaries and service time for the season.
Price has earned more than $200 million in his career, according to Baseball Reference. In June, he gave the Dodgers’ 221 minor leaguers $1,000 each to supplement the $400 weekly stipend they received from the organization.
Friedman directed questions about Price’s health and pay status to MLB and the players union. Spokesmen for both parties declined to comment.
After three months of off-putting public negotiations over money while the league was suspended, MLB and the players union agreed to stage a season different than other major North American professional sports leagues’ attempts to play during the pandemic. Instead of keeping teams in hubs like the NBA, NHL and Major League Soccer, teams will travel from city to city, though confined to their regions to avoid long trips.
A 101-page Operations Manual featuring rules changes and minute details down to banning hotel swimming pool use was produced. But the document left behavior away from facilities up to the individual.
“MLB will not formally restrict the activities of Covered Individuals when they are away from Club facilities, but will expect the Covered Individuals on each Club to ensure that they all act responsibly,” the manual reads.
The uncertainty has been unsettling for some individuals.
The Dodgers will start the season in three weeks, but July 23 felt extremely distant on day one of training camp at Dodger Stadium because of COVID-19 concerns.
Price, a Cy Young Award winner and five-time All-Star, is the most prominent player across the majors to decide not to risk playing in 2020 thus far. He joins Mike Leake of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Ian Desmond of the Colorado Rockies and Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross of the Washington Nationals. Several coaches around MLB also will not take part in the season or will work remotely.
MLB announced Friday that 31 players and seven staff members — 1.2% of samples collected — tested positive in its first wave of results. Any optimism the number generated was deflated by Saturday.
San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler said his organization had not finished the intake screening process, effectively rendering MLB’s announced results incomplete. They’re likely not the only team in that position.
Meanwhile, Giants catcher Buster Posey on Saturday joined Angels outfielder Mike Trout in admitting he is still unsure whether he will play, Kansas City Royals manager Mike Matheny said he had tested positive for the virus during MLB’s shutdown, and the Atlanta Braves announced that All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman tested positive.
Freeman is dealing with a fever, among other symptoms.
In the weeks since George Floyd’s death, amid nationwide protest the sports world was forced to revisit a legacy of insensitive mascots, songs and cheers.
“The guys who do opt out, I understand that,” Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw said. “I get that decision. … Everyone is going to have to make individual decisions, and we’re going to support that as a team with whatever happens with our guys.”
Dodgers players have tested positive, but the organization has declined to specify the number or identify the individuals. Friedman said Saturday that he doesn’t expect another Dodger to opt out of the season but emphasized it was a “fluid” situation.
The Dodgers acquired Price with three years remaining on his contract and Mookie Betts, in his final year before free agency, from the Boston Red Sox in February for Alex Verdugo and two prospects. The Dodgers were banking on Price, the No. 1 pick in the 2007 MLB draft and once the highest paid pitcher in major league history, to bounce back from a disappointing, injury-riddled 2019 season in which he posted a 4.28 earned-run average in 22 starts. He was slated to slot into the third spot in their starting rotation behind Kershaw and Walker Buehler.
The Dodgers will proceed without him this season, if there’s a season at all.
The Dodgers will cycle players through the designated hitter spot rather than have one dedicated DH, according to manager Dave Roberts. The National League is slated to have the DH for the first time in history this season before returning to no DH next season. … Roberts said AJ Ramos, signed to a minor league contract Thursday, is expected to join the club by Sunday.
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