SEATTLE — Baseball is finally back, and the Seattle Mariners will return to T-Mobile Park next week to begin Spring Training 2.0.
Hours after Major League Baseball set its 60-game schedule, which begins in July, and instructed players to report to their preseason sites by July 1, Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto outlined what a return to baseball will look like in Seattle.
Everything is moving quickly, Dipoto told reporters Wednesday afternoon on a Zoom call, and not every question has an answer yet, but group workouts — which have been shut down since the Mariners’ spring training facility closed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic — are expected to resume by July 3.
“The excitement of having the players back and getting the game moving again is certainly creating a new energy, and we’re looking forward to it,” he said.
Dipoto said 25-30 of the players on Seattle’s 40-man roster have already confirmed they will report to this second spring training stint — players deemed high-risk can opt out of the season and maintain salary and service time, while players without that designation can opt out while forfeiting pay and service — and Dipoto expects all of the 60 players the Mariners invite to camp will attend.
Dipoto said the Mariners have set up an intake program at T-Mobile Park, where players will be tested when they arrive and then self-quarantine before camp begins and they are granted access to the facility.
“What we’ve always messaged organizationally to our players up and down, and our staff, etc., is that we’ll do the right thing, and that’s what we’ll do here,” Dipoto said. “We are going to do the right thing. By that I mean we are going to make sure, to the extent we can control it, that our players are in as safe an environment as they can be. For us, that’s first and foremost.”
Since the Mariners left their facility in Arizona in March, Dipoto said the club has had “more than one” player test positive for the virus.
“We’re not yet sure with testing coming this weekend how much that will affect our 40-man roster, but with the cases popping up especially in some of the hotspots around the country we have had a few players test positive,” he said.
Those players have been asymptomatic, he said, and feel fine, but reiterated the club is aware they have tested positive, and will restrict access to the ballpark for any players who test positive upon arrival in Seattle.
Use more space
The Mariners are still waiting on approval from King County and the state to resume use of the ballpark, but Dipoto does not anticipate any issues that will hinder the club from beginning workouts next week.
Dipoto said he would participate in a walk-through of the stadium Wednesday as the club assesses how to best use the space for its group of 60 players as well as necessary staff.
The stadium does have the retractable roof, making it possible for the Mariners to use all of their outside spaces at T-Mobile Park regardless of the weather.
The Mariners plan to “engage all of the different spaces” at the ballpark to promote social distancing, including using both the home and visitors clubhouses, training and workout rooms. Alterations — including removing the couches and pool table — will be made to the clubhouses, and players will be appropriately spaced out at different lockers.
The team also won’t gather for meals, will eliminate the buffet-style setup it has used in the past, and offer pre-packaged meals for players and coaches at a grab-and-go station.
Meetings will take place in large spaces — such as the Ellis Pavilion or in the stands — to keep players and other team personnel spaced out.
All workouts during the spring training period of the season will be at T-Mobile Park, but when the team breaks into its major league roster — each club will have a 30-man roster the first two weeks of the regular season, a 28-man roster the two weeks that follow, and a 26-man roster from then on — and its taxi squad, the taxi squad will move its workouts to Seattle’s Triple-A facility at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma.
AL West, NL West
Seattle does not have a set schedule of games yet, Dipoto said, but the regular season will begin July 23-24 and end Sept. 27, and the Mariners will play a total of 40 games against American League West rivals and 20 games against teams from the NL West.
“The goal here, in operating solely in the West, is just to minimize travel and try to promote safety to the extent that we can by not moving the players around as frequently as the normal schedule requires,” Dipoto said.