MINNEAPOLIS - At least “a few” Minnesota Twins players have tested positive for Coronavirus within the last few days, Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey said Thursday.
Falvey held a nearly 60-minute Zoom session with reporters Thursday morning on several topics. He declined to specify how many players have had positive Covid-19 tests, declined to name any of the players and didn’t specify if they are big league or minor league players.
Falvey did say none of the positive tests were in Fort Myers, Fla., or in Minnesota. The players were at their home locations and are in quarantine. Falvey said at least one case involved a player coming in close contact with someone who had Covid-19, and another was a player who was experiencing symptoms and had a local test done. He said the cases are considered asymptomatic.
It will present challenges as Twins players and team officials will gather in Minneapolis by next week to start training camp in early July. Camps can open July 1, and Falvey said the first few days will involve Covid-19 testing and medical evaluations. Small-group workouts will begin around July 3.
With Twins’ players spread out across the country, Falvey was prepared for Covid-19 to impact the organization in some way.
“I don’t think that this is necessarily a surprise that we might have some positive cases. We would expect it and as a result, that’s why we want to follow the appropriate protocols before getting everyone back together,” Falvey said.
Accusations, complaint against Miguel Sano dropped
Twins officials also learned Thursday morning that accusations and charges of kidnapping against slugger Miguel Sano in the Dominican Republic have been dropped. Sano was at a court appearance Thursday and cleared of any wrongdoing.
Reports emerged out of the Dominican Republic last week that Sano was accused in a kidnapping case. He told a newspaper outlet there the accusations were false, saying he was being blackmailed for money, and he accused the accuser of sexually assaulting his 8-year-old stepbrother.
Court officials Thursday ruled the accusations and charges against Sano were not sufficient to pursue a case. Sano is expected to travel back to Minneapolis later this week, and will be in training camp on time.
“In those cases when there’s allegations and it is serious, we took what Miguel said at his word and then wanted to wait and see what else transpired. Ultimately today it matched what he had been telling us,” Falvey said.
What will training camp look like?
Twins players will start to report to Target Field by July 1. Players and staff will be tested for Covid-19 and will have medical evaluations done over the first few days. The hope is small-group workouts can start around July 3.
Falvey said the Twins are doing everything they can to make sure players follow Covid-19 guidelines and also get their work in. Larger group work will be limited, pitchers will utilize the outfield at Target Field as well as both the home and visiting bullpens. They’ll utilize the outdoor spaces at the stadium that might otherwise be for fans, and Falvey said they’ll likely use the Champions Club for food distribution.
Player workouts will be staggered, socially distanced and they’ll use the indoor batting cages near the Twins’ clubhouse for players waiting their turn to get outside. Falvey said at some point, they’ll transition to intra-squad games when it’s deemed safe.
“With a shortened Spring Training, we need to get guys playing games and taking regular at-bats against live pitching,” Falvey said.
The Twins have the option to schedule up to three exhibition games against another team in their final week of training camp. It’s too early to know if that will happen.
How will baseball life change at home, on the road?
There’s no question that the way players go about baseball will change significantly as the 60-game season starts in late July. Gone are the days of playing cards and hanging out in the clubhouse. Players will go into the clubhouse, get dressed and head straight to the field to get their pregame work in. There will be outdoor areas for players who want to sit and hang out.
“It’s definitely going to be a different kind of normal,” Falvey said.
Road life will be a lot different too. After a home stand finishes, players will head straight to the airport for their chartered flight. Everybody on the plane will wear masks, and upon landing, they’ll have team buses staggered to go straight to their hotel. They’ll have arrangements made for food delivery. There won’t be much lounging in visiting clubhouses. In fact, they’ll spend as little time at the ballpark as possible.
After road games, players will head back to their hotels and be strongly encouraged to stay there. They’ll stay away from bars, restaurants and nightlife if at all humanly possible.
“What you do within the ballpark we can help manage, but what you do away from the ballpark is probably as important, or more important, than what happens inside our walls. We need to impress upon our players that that has to be taken exceptionally seriously so that we can move forward in a healthy way,” Falvey said.
What about Michael Pineda?
Twins fans hoping to hear good news on Michael Pineda are out of luck. Even in a shortened season, Pineda’s suspension will not be pro-rated and he’ll have to sit out the remaining 39 games. Pineda tested positive last season for a banned substance, a diuretic used to maintain weight and blood pressure.
Pineda will be able to work out and prepare, but won’t be active until sometime in September. He was the pleasant surprise of the Twins’ starting rotation, going 11-5 in 26 starts with a 4.01 earned run average. He had 140 strikeouts and just 28 walks in 146 innings before the suspension.
What’s the sense of urgency in a 60-game season?
The excitement for Twins’ baseball might be as high as it’s ever been. Rocco Baldelli helped lead Minnesota to 101 wins, and its first division title since 2010 in his first season. The Twins added Josh Donaldson to a lineup that set the MLB home run record. Byron Buxton should be ready for the new Opening Day. Rich Hill should be ready for the starting rotation, as will Homer Bailey. The Twins have a loaded group back for 2020, but with only 60 games to play, getting off to a fast start is crucial.
The Twins will face their division opponents, the Indians, Tigers, Royals and White Sox. They’ll also face the National League Central division teams, the Brewers, Cubs, Cardinals, Pirates and Reds.
The Twins were 40-20 after 60 games last season and had a 9.5 game lead in the divison. Of course, everything is different this year in a condensed season.
“I think these guys know it’s going to be a different kind of season at 60 games, it’s going to be more of a sprint than a marathon. I think everyone has to approach it with the idea that every game is going to matter that much more and we need to be ready to go right from the outset,” Falvey said.
The most important thing for a 60-game season to happen comes down to following Covid-19 guidelines. Players and staff need to hold themselves accountable, and everyone will have to do their part. Go to the ballpark, go home or to the hotel and stay there.
“There’s going to be a conversation on the front end with every one of our players to say that it’s up to every individual in this room, their responsibility is much greater,” Falvey said. “I think it’s going to take a lot of effort and coordination from a lot of people. We’re going to do our very best to pull that off.”