The Blue Jays’ first two home games, however, will come at Nationals Park on Wednesday and Thursday — immediately following two previously scheduled games there against the Nationals on Monday and Tuesday — to accommodate infrastructure upgrades in Buffalo. The Blue Jays will serve as the home team at Nationals Park for the latter two games.
“This process has no doubt tested our team’s resilience,” Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro said in a statement, “but our players and staff refuse to make excuses — we are determined to take the field … with the same intensity and competitiveness that our fans expect.”
Sahlen Field not only will require an upgrade to the stadium lighting, but its dugouts, clubhouses and other common areas also will need to be retrofitted to comply with MLB’s social distancing guidelines.
Meanwhile, the Braves’ latest situation, which arose Friday, is cause for concern not for the number of players (two) the team had to leave in Atlanta as it traveled to Queens for its 2020 opener against the New York Mets but for the position both Travis d’Arnaud and Tyler Flowers play: catcher.
Neither player tested positive for coronavirus, but both were showing symptoms, and the team made the decision to leave them behind because, according to Manager Brian Snitker, “we’ve had guys test negative, and the next day they test positive.” He added neither player was aware of having been exposed to anyone who has the virus.
“If this happened a year ago,” Snitker said, “you’d bring them in and treat them, and they’d probably still be available.”
Catcher always has been the most tenuous position in baseball for 2020 because of the irreplaceability of its practitioners and the intricacies of their duties. Teams can plug a backup shortstop in at second base or shift a first baseman to the outfield in a pinch, but not everyone can crouch behind the plate for 150 pitches a night and guide a pitching staff through nine innings. A team running out of catchers because of the spread of the coronavirus has been one of the sport’s biggest fears.
The Braves haven’t run out of catchers — they called up Alex Jackson and William Contreras from their reserve pool, and Jackson, a 24-year-old rookie, started for them Friday. But depending on the length of the absences for d’Arnaud and Flowers, the Braves may be reduced to praying for continued good health for Jackson and Contreras while initiating a search for additional catching depth.
Under MLB’s coronavirus protocols, there is no set length of time d’Arnaud and Flowers must sit out because they tested negative. But the Braves will monitor their conditions as they decide how to proceed, and the players will continue to be tested every other day.
The Braves, the defending National League East champions, have been one of the hardest-hit teams in baseball by the coronavirus, with first baseman Freddie Freeman and pitcher Touki Toussaint back with the team after testing positive at the start of summer camp and lefty reliever Will Smith and infielder Pete Kozma still sidelined by positive tests.
“There’s no such thing as a common cold anymore,” Freeman said. “So if you have symptoms, this is what’s going to happen. You’re going to miss three to four days. … Unfortunately, this is going to happen, not just to us — it’s going to happen to probably every single team.”
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