The Indians have spent roughly the last week coordinating with players and staff to figure out where each individual wanted to spend the next few weeks and potentially months as the spreading of the coronavirus has led to the shutdown of Major League Baseball and every major sport around the country.
And as of Friday, the Indians will be suspending operations at their spring facility in Goodyear, Ariz. According to Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti, the vast majority of those with the Indians — including players, coaches and staff members — have either returned home or wherever they preferred to stay for the time being. A small group of players had remained at the Goodyear complex, including those finishing rehabilitation assignments and those who live in the Phoenix area.
“Over a week ago, we had 350-plus people in our Goodyear complex, another 100 in the Dominican, 200 more in Cleveland,” Antonetti said. “We tried very quickly to disperse those groups as best and as safely as we could to follow the best guidelines we were getting from infectious disease specialists.”
“Our biggest priority with that guiding principle in mind was trying to ensure we were getting people back to their families, connecting with the people they wanted to be with for an extensive period of time and then maintaining the best hygiene practices we could at our facilities as well as employing the social distancing guidelines that were continuing to evolve.”
Antonetti also said Thursday that no players or staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus to his knowledge.
The Indians’ Cleveland office has also been closed. Their facility in the Dominican Republic remains open, but the team has “greatly reduced” the footprint with the number of people there, and while players and staff can choose to spend the next several weeks or months at the facility if that’s what they deem the best situation for them, they can’t go there, leave and come back in an effort to reduce travel.
As for the few players at the housing complex in Goodyear, the Indians have “enhanced” their hygienic practices, put players in individual rooms and dropped off box meals to reduce any crowding. The baseball facilities, though, are having their operations suspended.
“We wanted to make sure we were doing everything we could to maintain the health and wellness of our players and staff,” Antonetti said. “We chose to operate the Goodyear complex with a significantly reduced footprint and still followed those best practices. But at this point, the guidance we’re getting from health experts is that the best decision would be just to stop that activity all together and that’s what we’ll do.”
The Indians will be giving their minor leaguers a $400 per week stipend for the next two weeks. At that time, it’s possible other measures could be taken, either from a league-wide or team-wide standpoint. For now, the Indians with a handful of other teams that are doing the same wanted to work quickly to allow those minor leaguers the knowledge of where and when their next paycheck will be arriving.
“I think one of the things we want to make sure we continue to do as an organization is support our players and staff as best as we possibly could,” Antonetti said. “With respect to our minor league guys, we recognize the hardship this could impose upon them and so we wanted to make sure we did our part to try to help them as best as we possibly could, especially in the transition back home.”
Major League Baseball has been planning to follow the CDC’s guidelines, including the recommendation that events with crowds of more than 50 people be canceled for the next weight weeks. That has likely pushed Opening Day back to late May at the earliest, with the regular season not arriving until June or July becoming more of distinct possibility. Adding to that issue is the time needed for players — especially pitchers — to ramp up to their full volume. As with most facets of the shutdown, there is still a great deal of fluidity.
“A lot of it would depend on how long we’re off,” Antonetti said. “And what types of activities our players are able to do preceding the start of games. At minimum we would hope that we could have at least a few weeks, 2-3 weeks. But again, there’s so much uncertainty it’s hard to assess with any accuracy.”