Dick Williams compared it to the longest rain delay the Cincinnati Reds have ever experienced, and now he’s ready to pull the tarp.
Major League Baseball’s announcement Tuesday night about players returning to training camps July 1 and the 2020 season starting July 23 or 24 ended months of frustration for the Reds President of Baseball Operations and everyone on both sides of the talks between players and owners. Now the focus shifts to the game itself.
“We’re pretty fired up,” Williams said Wednesday on a conference call with reporters. “We heard from players. We heard from coaches. Everybody’s ready to go. We’ve been waiting for this.”
Before the the Reds start the 60-game regular season, they will get three weeks of training. They will have a 60-game roster. Thirty of those players — the players most expected to play right away — will work out at Great American Ball Park. The rest of the roster is expected to train in Mason on the corporate campus of Prasco Laboratories, which has two fields: Prasco Park and Legacy Field.
That was one bit of news that came out Wednesday. Williams answered a number of other questions:
How will players from outside of the country get to Ohio?
Williams said most of the Reds are in the United States but that Major League Baseball was working to arrange charter flights for players from, for example, the Dominican Republic.
What will be the process once players arrive?
Williams expects players to undergo coronavirus testing once in Cincinnati and said it will take 48 to 72 hours to clear them to participate in training.
Have any players chosen not t0 play because of concerns about COVID-19?
Williams said, “I can tell you no player has indicated to any member of our staff that they are thinking of opting out. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen.”
Are all the Reds healthy as they prepare to return to training?
“As far as I know, nobody is going to come in with any significant limitations,” Williams said.
How will the Reds choose the players who will make up the 60-man roster?
While there will be a few top prospects who may not be ready for the big leagues on the roster, Williams wants players who can contribute to the Reds if needed.
“If anything, we’re leaning toward putting players at that alternate site we know can come to the big leagues and help us win this year,” Williams said, “and we will make sure those needs are met before we worry about prioritizing development. I understand some teams may take a different approach, but we’re focusing on now.”
Is there any chance fans get to attend games at Great American Ball Park this season?
“All the teams are keeping an open mind,” Williams said. “They’re not going to decree at the league level what you can and can’t do. I think they’re going to leave it to individual teams to see how the situation in their home market evolves, and if it evolves in such a way that local officials get comfortable with having fans, I think it would be something that any team would be thrilled to do.”
What are his thoughts on the shortened season?
“It’s going to be awesome,” Williams said. “It’ll be a sprint. It’ll be a battle. I think we’ve got a group of guys who are going to rise to the challenge. The intensity should be higher. The sense of urgency should be greater.”
Is there any chance there will be a minor league season?
“My understanding is Major League Baseball and the owners wanted to get the regular season resolved,” Williams said, “and now they’ll turn their attention to either the minor league season or in the absence of a minor league season, the continued development of minor league players. Anything and everything is on the table here. My reading of the tea leaves is that picking up a minor league season like we are trying to pick up a major league season is probably a lot less likely, but that final decision will be made above my pay grade.
“I do believe if we don’t have one, there will be a lot of attention paid to trying to develop those players in some form or fashion, whether that’s getting them games or practices. Whether that involves minor-league markets, we’ll have to see.”
How equipped are the Reds to play with a designated hitter, now that it’s coming to the National League for this season?
“We built this team to have a DH,” Williams said with a laugh. “We’ve got hitters. The ability to get more bats in the lineup is a great thing for us, so IO was really happy to see that sneak in there for this year.”