Wednesday’s MLB: Managers told to expect on-time spring training start

Associated Press

St. Petersburg, Fla. — Big league managers say Major League Baseball instructed them to prepare for spring training to start on time in mid-February despite uncertainty around the coronavirus.

Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash said Wednesday that Commissioner Rob Manfred had a meeting with managers Tuesday and expressed optimism about opening spring camps as scheduled.

In this Oct. 27photo, Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner celebrates with the trophy after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 in Arlington, Texas. Baseball nearly made it through its version of playoff bubbles unscathed; two innings before the World Series ended, Justin Turner of the now-champion Los Angeles Dodgers Turner was pulled from the game after MLB was notified that he had tested positive for COVID-19.

“That message has been fairly consistent,” Cash said. “We’ll continue to plan and prepare until if we are told otherwise.”

Managers have said this week during digital Winter Meetings press availabilities that they expect health protocols to remain in place to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks. Teams instituted a number of policies during a pandemic-shortened 60-game regular season in 2020 that produced better results as the year went on, largely keeping players and staff safe even as teams traveled around the country.

“I think Major League Baseball was somewhat the petri dish,” Cash said. “We were the first real big sport to really get going outside of a bubble. Obviously if you look at last year’s situation, Major League Baseball, everybody adjusted on the fly. Now there’s more sports that have done things, accomplished things.”

There’s concern that if opening day is delayed, pitchers in particular could risk overextending themselves by ramping up too soon.

“The pitchers need to get on a pretty structured throwing program to be ready for the first day of spring training,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “Even though we’ll have six weeks to get ready for the first regular season game, there’s a build up prior to spring training. It’s important to pitchers.”

“At the end of the day, we have to do the right thing, and it’s always been about the health and safety, well-being of players and fans and everybody included here as we deal with the issues surrounding the pandemic,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “So right now we’re going as scheduled, with planning on playing a 162-game season, but you have to be adaptable. That’s one thing I’ve learned about 2020 and we know it’s going to play into 2021 a little bit as well.”

A vaccine for the novel coronavirus is likely to be made available to teams some time during the 2021 season, and while managers say they plan to be inoculated, no manager or team has said it will mandate vaccines for players. Most said they were eager to provide information to players, but not to issue directions.

“I don’t think it would be right for me to point the finger and say, you’ve got to do this,” Cash said. “We just don’t operate like that. We’ll lean on the experts to give us as much information as possible so individuals can make the best decisions for themselves and families.”

“I think we’ll have a lot more information and clarity and direction in a couple of months, if and when that conversation becomes a reality,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I don’t feel equipped to have that conversation today.”

Vizquel denies claims

Longtime major league shortstop Omar Vizquel denied accusations of domestic abuse made by his wife after she described two alleged acts of physical violence by the 11-time Gold Glove winner in a story published by The Athletic.

Blanca Vizquel, 36, said her 53-year-old husband first assaulted her in 2011, three years before they married, and again in 2016. She described another heated dispute with him last August, which she said prompted her to leave him and file for divorce. She also spoke of the allegations in a video on her Instagram posted Oct. 7, saying in Spanish that “no one deserves to have violence against them.”

Omar Vizquel said in a statement on Twitter that he cheated on Blanca and apologized for the “pain my indiscretions may have caused,” but he denied ever abusing her.

“Let me be clear and unequivocal,” he said. “I have never hit or been violent towards my wife, Blanca. Any accusation to the contrary is false.”

Vizquel was taken into police custody in Sammamish, Washington, in 2016 after an incident at the couple’s home, The Athletic said. Blanca Vizquel told police her husband pushed her over, injuring her shin and breaking several finger nails. She later asked prosecutors to drop charges against her husband, but she told The Athletic she did so only after Omar Vizquel threatened her with financial repercussions.

Blanca Vizquel also described a 2011 incident when Omar Vizquel allegedly strangled her.

Major League Baseball is investigating the 2016 arrest and has spoken to Blanca. The league is also looking into a 2019 clubhouse incident while Vizquel was managing the Double-A Birmingham Barons in the Chicago White Sox system.

Vizquel was set to manage the Toros de Tijuana in the Mexican League in 2020 before the league canceled its season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Around the horn

The Rays signed free agent catcher Mike Zunino to a one-year, $2 million contract that includes a club option for 2022. The option is worth $4 million, could reach $7 million with incentives and includes a $1 million buyout.

... Left-handed reliever Alex Claudio has agreed to a one-year, $1.125 million contract with the Angels.

... Right-hander Anthony DeSclafani signed a one-year, $6 million contract with the Giants.

... The Mariners signed right-handed reliever Keynan Middleton.