Contentious negotiations between players and owners over salaries and health and safety protocols have dimmed hopes for an abbreviated baseball season, but the Dodgers and Angels are preparing as if there will be games this summer.
They are among at least eight big league teams to increase baseball activities in the last week or so, opening stadiums in Los Angeles and Anaheim and spring training facilities in Arizona for organized workouts while adhering to protocols to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.
Dodger Stadium and Camelback Ranch, the Dodgers’ spring training facility in Phoenix, have been open for informal and optional workouts — to one player at a time in Los Angeles and a handful of players at a time in Arizona — since at least the middle of May.
Players are throwing bullpen sessions, taking ground balls, hitting in the cage and taking live batting practice a few days a week in Arizona.
“In Arizona, we’ve had guys throwing off mounds that I wouldn’t let a high schooler throw off of,” said Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations. “So we’ve tried to time it where guys’ bullpens can be at Camelback Ranch instead of makeshift mounds that they came across in Phoenix.”
The Dodgers received permission from government officials to ramp up workouts in Chavez Ravine, where training room and field access has been restricted to one or two players at a time. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said workout sessions are staggered by two-hour blocks.
“Right now, we’ve found a good balance where guys can get their work in and have us err on the side of caution,” Friedman said, alluding to measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“In L.A., it’s predominately focused on [rehabilitating players] and guys focusing on responsible ways of getting in some work. In Arizona, it’s been a little more opened up, but we’re still restricting various aspects, all the while knowing it could be accelerated pretty quickly.”
The Angels are allowing four players to work out at a time in Angel Stadium and Tempe Diablo Stadium in Arizona, with no more than two players plus one instructor in a given area. Several position players, including first baseman Albert Pujols, infielder Tommy La Stella and utility man David Fletcher, have joined pitchers Shohei Ohtani and Griffin Canning, who are rehabilitating from arm injuries and have been throwing in Angel Stadium for weeks.
“It offers players an area to train with some of the equipment they’re accustomed to,” Angels general manager Billy Eppler said. “A lot of people were having to do either home workouts or, if somebody was lucky enough to know somebody that owned a gym or boutique-style gym, maybe they could access that.
“But it’s likely to not have the same equipment they’re accustomed to at our stadium or our facilities. The least we can do is offer them that and bring in a bullpen catcher [for pitchers to throw to].”
The Angels are staggering 90-minute workouts, leaving 30 minutes between sessions for cleaning and sanitizing equipment in the weight room and batting cages.
“It can mimic a school schedule,” Eppler said. “It requires people to be on time and to know when it’s their time to do things. Adaptability is an important characteristic to have with anything.”
At least six other teams — Tampa Bay, Houston, Seattle, Miami, Arizona and Cincinnati — opened stadiums and spring facilities for organized workouts in the last two weeks.
About a dozen Rays are practicing three times a week at Tropicana Field, according to the Tampa Bay Times, with players limited to playing catch, running on the field and doing light exercises.
Players had their temperature checked on the way into the stadium, wore masks except when performing physical activities and adhered to social distancing guidelines, working out in groups of two on a staggered schedule.
The Astros resumed workouts at Minute Maid Park in Houston and the team’s training site in West Palm Beach, Fla. Astros general manager James Click told MLB.com that strict protocols, including temperature screenings upon entering facilities, wearing face coverings and social distancing, are being followed.
According to MLB.com, nine Mariners players who live in the Phoenix area, including pitchers Yusei Kikuchi and Taijuan Walker, were scheduled to begin workouts with staff supervision last week in Peoria, Ariz. Players were required to complete an at-home questionnaire about their health situation, and they underwent health screenings and temperature checks upon arriving at the facility.
The Marlins opened their spring complex in Jupiter, Fla., for individual batting and throwing sessions for players on their 40-man roster. The Diamondbacks opened their spring complex in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Chase Field, and the Reds opened Great American Ball Park and their spring site in Goodyear, Ariz., for workouts.
If owners and players can reach an agreement, spring training is expected to last about three weeks ahead of the beginning of the season. With so many teams already conducting workouts at their facilities, the hope is that players would be ready to perform at a high level.
Staff writers Jorge Castillo and Maria Torres contributed to this story.