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D-backs’ Hall: MLB plans in place to work past positive coronavirus tests

Arizona Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall interviews with Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Feb. 13, 2020. (Matt Layman/Arizona Sports)

Now that the ugly negotiating has passed Major League Baseball and its players, there is also belief that safety protocols can move MLB into a relatively safe preparation phase for the shortened 2020 season to begin.

For the Arizona Diamondbacks, that remains the case despite one player testing positive for coronavirus in the past month and case numbers spiking locally in the past week.

The health of the players and coaches remains the biggest concern with July 1 marking the reporting date for a second “spring” training.

“That’s the top priority. We know we’re going to have some positive tests,” D-backs CEO and president Derrick Hall told Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf on Thursday. “We’re going to make mistakes, everybody is. Again, this is something nobody has been through before.

“The return-to-play 100-page document everyone signed off on … there’s a lot of confidence (in it).”

Hall believes the MLB negotiations created safeguards if players test positive for coronavirus during the 60-game season.

Expanded roster sizes and a three-person taxi squad will give them tools to survive a surprise absence of players due to the virus.

Roster sizes will begin at 30 players, reduce to 28 after two weeks and sit at 26 after two more. MLB also created a coronavirus-specific injured list where positive-testing players can return to action at any point they are cleared.

As for getting players back into a preseason of sorts prior to the July 23 or 24 regular season first pitch, Hall said MLB’s decision last week to pull teams out of their spring training facilities will not inhibit Arizona’s plans to use both Salt River Fields at Talking Stick and its home stadium, Chase Field, to safety get players ready.

“That was meant to get everybody tested and to clean the facilities,” Hall said of the mandate for players to leave spring training facilities. “We’ve done a deep clean, we continue to clean. I think we’ll be able to use (Salt River Fields) right away when we start.”

The health of the players also comes in regarding rule changes.

A three-batter minimum that pitchers must face was already implemented before the pandemic struck. Now, extra innings will involve placing a runner on second base to lead off, which should reduce the toll on pitching staffs as games end more quickly.

“It’s the perfect season to try it because again, you don’t want your pitchers to be overexerted,” Hall said.

As for the virus, Hall said protocols will evolve as unique cases arise and new measures of prevention are learned.

“I think with everybody (the biggest concern is) going to be health, obviously, and pitching,” the D-backs president added. “I love our pitching, I love our staff, I love our starters, our bullpen improved as well. It’s a lot about health. If three or five guys get (the virus), when do they get it?

“Does a team really get hit hard in the middle of a season when they were really on a run?”


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