For three days, Major League Baseball’s return, albeit in a very different atmosphere, provided a refreshing distraction for baseball fans who have waited patiently for the league’s return since shutting down in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But on Monday — it’s always a Monday, isn’t it? — the optimism surrounding baseball’s return received a reality check like a fastball to the ribs, reminding everyone what MLB and its players must navigate and how persistent the virus is.
After at least 13 Miami Marlins players/coaches tested positive for COVID-19 less than 12 hours after playing the Phillies in Philadelphia, MLB postponed the Marlins’ games in Baltimore on Monday and Tuesday as well as Monday’s game between the Phillies and Yankees in Philadelphia. There is a chance the second game of that series will be postponed.
Down in Houston, Mariners manager Scott Servais followed the situation closely and reflected on the first three games of their series with the Astros over the weekend, when they weren’t following the protocols completely.
“It’s certainly something we’re well aware of,” he said. “And quite frankly, it’s something we have to do a better job of here, too. [Sunday’s] game was really exciting. Guys are getting big hits and you just forget. And I’m as guilty as anybody. We’ll have a team meeting and we will come up with a 2020 version of high fives or different ways to celebrate in the clubhouse. We have to do a better job there.”
Servais believes they’ve been good about pregame activities and workouts, but the games are when they don’t practice effective social distancing.
“I think we’re saying all the right stuff, but you watch the games, we have to do the right thing,” he said. “Sometimes you let your emotions get in the way and you just react. We weren’t clearly thinking and slowing it down enough in those spots. I don’t want to curb the enthusiasm of young players. That’s the beauty of the game and what we’re going through and getting a chance to experience that with our whole team. But we do have to be smart.”
Servais had multiple meetings with his players leading up to the team’s opening road trip to Houston, which has blown up with positive COVID-19 tests. Up next is another hot spot: Anaheim, California. Servais was adamant his team stays at either the hotel or the ballpark.
“To my understanding, nobody has really left the hotel at all,” Servais said. “I know our coaching staff hasn’t, and I talked to our players two different times before we left Seattle about going into Houston and Anaheim after that. You’ve got to lock down and stay in the hotel.”
Daniel Vogelbach was out of the lineup for Monday’s series finale with the Astros. It was his second straight game on the bench — and it wasn’t due to injury.
No, Vogelbach’s bat is hurting right now and has been since he reported for summer camp. He’s looked late on fastballs, particularly hittable ones in the strike zone. He’s 0 for 7 on the season with a walk and two strikeouts.
Vogelbach is trying to find some answers with hitting coaches Jarret DeHart and Hugh Quattlebaum.
“Vogey has gotten off to a slow start here and in summer camp,” Servais said. “The last couple days, he’s been working on a few things with JD and Hugh trying to get the feel back. He’s picked up a few things on video. He’ll be back in there again. We’re just giving him a couple days to get it together, and hopefully he feels better at the plate and will be more productive.”
The Mariners made their first in-season roster move on Monday, placing right-handed reliever Brandon Brennan on the 10-day injured list with a strained left oblique. The team recalled left-handed reliever Taylor Guilbeau from the alternate training site to fill the roster spot.
Guilbeau, 27, was already with the team in Houston as part of the three-player taxi squad and was available to pitch in the series finale against the Astros. He was acquired at the MLB trade deadline last season from the Nationals. He made 17 appearances for the Mariners, posting a 3.65 ERA in 12 1/3 innings pitched.
Brennan, 29, pitched 1 1/3 innings in Saturday’s loss, allowing a run on two hits with two walks. Last season, he posted a 4.56 ERA in 44 appearances with Seattle.