The challenges that arose this week with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic were inevitable to many of the Orioles players and coaches.
A two-game series in Miami was canceled after 11 players and two coaches on the Marlins were diagnosed with the coronavirus. MLB quickly pivoted from the situation and set up a series between the Orioles and Yankees at Camden Yards for July 29-30.
Orioles first baseman Chris Davis was already mentally prepared for the scenario.
“I think going into this there was a good possibility that something like this was going to happen,” Davis said. “I think we all kind of in the back of our minds knew that there was a possibility of something like this happening, but you hope for the best.
“If anything, it should serve as a reminder how important it is that we follow these health and safety protocols. If it’s important to us to play every game on the schedule, then we’re going to do what we can to make sure that we’re staying safe.”
The Orioles were stranded at a hotel in South Florida as they awaited further guidance from MLB about the games. They were essentially at ground zero for the coronavirus.
Manager Brandon Hyde indulged in a cheeseburger and sweet potato fries to quell the monotony of the day.
“It’s not easy to not know, so we’re just hanging around not knowing what’s going on,” Hyde said. “It almost felt like you’re just sitting around in your clubhouse waiting to play. I don’t know how else to explain it. It’s definitely an uneasy feeling.”
Hyde also had to make quick adjustments with his pitching staff and lineup.
Asher Wojciechowski will face Gerrit Cole in the opener against the Yankees. The hope is John Means, who has been dealing with arm fatigue, can pitch the following the day against J.A. Happ. Both Kohl Stewart and Tommy Milone were pushed back after the games with the Marlins were canceled.
Hyde said the team has no choice but to be flexible in this challenging time.
“We’re handling things day-to-day that we’ve never handled before,” Hyde said. “I’ve been in professional baseball for 23 years … since 1997 … and there are a lot of firsts this year, so it’s constantly adjusting. A lot of Zoom meetings and a lot of relying on advice and help and conversations to try to make this the best year that we possibly can.”
The sheer number of players in MLB presents a challenge to prevent an outbreak of the virus despite the necessary precautions made by the teams. The players also have to take personal responsibility to ensure the safety of the clubhouse, according to Davis.
“It was going to be hard to get through this whole thing without something like this happening,” Davis said. “Once you start to get guys together in a single area and they’re in the same consistent areas that have been cleaned and have been marked with the six feet of distancing and all the sanitation, I think it would be less of a chance, but at the end of the day, you can’t control what guys are doing away from the field.
“So I hope it alarms everyone league-wide and makes them really focus in on what they’re doing and making sure that they’re doing the right thing.”
While the situation with the Marlins is unsettling, the Orioles are prepared to carry on. They just took two of three games from the Red Sox in Boston to open the season. Hyde said he was proud of the way his players competed and hopes to carry that momentum into the series against the Yankees … safely.
“I think that you’re always going to have concern going in. I think we’re trusting the process of how we’re going about things here,” Hyde said. “It’s natural when there are numerous guys on one team that tested positive, I think there is a little bit of concern, but we want to play, our guys want to play.
“We feel comfortable about things here right now and we’re going to continue to follow closely all the guidelines in place because our guys really want to be on the field. This was something that was possible. It’s extremely unfortunate. But I know that our guys want to play baseball, so I think we’re taking it very, very seriously.”
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