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More coronavirus uncertainty: Play not likely until at least May, second mini spring training possible

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Rockies news and links for Sunday, March 15

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Rockies lay out baseball plans in wake of coronavirus; second “spring training” likely | Denver Post ($)

While a lot of the information in this article was reported in Saturday’s Rockpile in terms of what the players are doing during the COVID-19 delay, there was some newsworthy updates:

Depending on the length of the delay to the season, which is being reported as possibly being in May for now in a best-case scenario, there is a possibility players and teams will need another mini spring training to get everyone back into the swing of things. Saunders quoted Bud Black, who said, “we will get plenty of time from MLB to get back in game shape and it will be at least a three-week period … to be ready for a season.”

The Rockies front office had an hour-and-a-half meeting with the players on Friday. According to Saunders, Jeff Bridich said that many players are opting to stay in Scottsdale, saying, “At this point, we don’t have a final count, but we have a general feeling that a lot of guys will stay here, and we plan on keeping this place open, to a certain degree, on a weekly basis.”

Saunders reports that as of now, there are no Rockies players or staff, or Salt River Field employees who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Players are being asked to be honest and report how they are feeling, and also advised to avoid crowds to limit exposure to the virus, which also includes not scheduling intrasquad games. While players can decide if they go home, stay in Scottsdale, or go to their homes, minor league players and staff are being sent home.

Behind the scenes as baseball scrambles to resolve issues related to COVID-19 | The Athletic ($)

The federal government, local governments, businesses, and all of us are still trying to figure out what to do in amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It seems like when every plan comes out, it is quickly outdated and replaced with a new one. Most people and businesses haven’t done anything like this before. The MLB is no different.

In this article from Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich, they explain how the MLB and the MLB Players Association have a lot to figure out in terms of how to keep players safe and healthy, how and when to pay players, how to deal with contacts and bonuses that require a certain amount of games played, and how the schedule will look if the season is shorted and play doesn’t start until May, which is what the reporters heard from sources assuming the virus is contained enough to safely do so. This is all in flux because this is an ever-evolving situation with a lot of unknowns.

When President Trump declared a national emergency on Friday, it also triggered a clause in the contract of every MLB player where the commissioner is allowed “to suspend the operation of this contract during any national emergency during which Major League Baseball is not played.”

This set of circumstances leads to an interesting result, as Rosenthal and Drellich explain:

“While Trump’s decision appears to give MLB the right to withhold pay, Manfred is not inclined to take such a hard-line position, a source said. One possibility under discussion is the owners advancing players some of their 2020 salaries. Major leaguers are not paid until a season begins, going through spring training on a healthy per diem.”

This is all uncharted territory and plans will probably continue to shift and evolve.

Law: How do you prepare for the draft when there are no games to watch? | The Athletic ($)

MLB scouts have been grounded and there is no scouting to be done anyway. The draft is currently still scheduled for June 12, which was originally going to be paired with the College World Series, which has now been cancelled. It seems unlikely there will be any college or high school baseball this year. Thus, the headline.

While events and start dates of all kinds are all being pushed back, ideas are being floated as to how to do the draft this year. One is that a possible draft could be held in July, according to reporter Keith Law’s conversation with an unidentified general manager. If the pandemic has subsided, that could work for the event, but all the scouting data won’t be very complete.

Some GMs are brainstorming ideas from a NFL-like combine or makeshift teams and tournaments to see more players in action. It’s good to see some creativity. Hopefully teams can adapt and still be able to make informed decisions on who to give million-dollar contracts. Everyone is adapting. Nothing will be like it usually is and maybe that’s just going to be the motto while we get through this.

Saunders: Forecasting the Rockies’ rotation and other lingering questions | Denver Post ($)

As we await to see when sports will begin again, we can still think about all the things we were wondering before: Who will be the fifth starter for the Rockies? What about the bullpen? What backup players might have earned roster spots in the spring training action that did happen?

Patrick Saunders put forth his predictions in his column on Saturday. Here’s the breakdown:

Starting rotation: Jon Gray, Germán Márquez, Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela, and Chi Chi González, Saunders believes. In four spring training appearances, González has a 6.30 ERA in 11 innings, giving up seven runs on 11 hits (two homers) with three walks (plus one hit by pitch) and eight strikeouts. Peter Lambert is likely to be out for a while with “forearm tightness” and the Rockies are looking at the possibility of Tommy John surgery (hopefully it won’t be necessary). Ubaldo Jiménez, who has a spring training ERA of 8.44 in 5.1 innings over three appearances with 9 runs (five earned) two walks, two HBP, and two strikeouts, is likely to start the season in Triple-A. Saunders thinks Jeff Hoffman could either be traded or kept in the bullpen for a long-relief option, or to fill in the rotation if there is an injury to one of the current five. Hoffman, who Saunders believes is behind González because of his inconsistency, pitched 5.2 innings over three appearances with a 6.35 ERA with three walks, four strikeouts, and four earned runs on seven hits (one homer).

Backing up Tony Wolters at catcher: Saunders is betting on Elias Díaz, who had a great spring training, hitting .429/.458/.571 with one double, one triple, and three RBI in 24plate appearances. Saunders also notes that Drew Butera knows the pitchers better and could get the nod if they go with defense and pitcher familiarity. However, Butera hasn’t been too bad himself offensively during spring training (.333/.429/.917) with two homers, one double, and six RBI in 14 plate appearances.

Notables: Tyler Kinley gets Saunders’ pick for breakout pitcher of spring training with six scoreless innings of work, giving up only two hits and two walks, while striking out six. Saunders selected Sam Hilliard as the plater most hurt by a shortened spring training. Hilliard hasn’t looked like the prospect we saw tearing it up in September last season in spring training this year, hitting .176/.222/.441 with six hits compared to 12 strikeouts. He could be headed to Triple-A.

7 storylines to ponder while we wait | MLB.com

Coming in at No. 3 on the list behind the delay possibly letting players like Justin Verlander, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton (to name a few) recover from injuries is “Will the Rockies rethink their decision not to trade Arenado?” Even though we know that things are not resolved between Bridich and Arenado, I am not sure why a delay in the season would reignite the trade rumors. Maybe it’s just that sports reporters have to have something to talk about.

Richard Justice gives three reasons for bringing this up:

  1. Franchise players don’t like being involved in trade talks (which is something Arenado said wasn’t the issue of his feeling disrespected).
  2. Bridich still needs to think about the payroll, building a better roster, and depth in the farm system.
  3. The Nationals and Cardinals would still like to have Arenado. Duh. Who wouldn’t?

Rockies Twitter remains a bright spot in all the confusion and sadness we are feeling. They have posted a link to all the Rockies commercials, including one that is now has the title “Holliday (washed his hands thoroughly and) Touched It.”

You can also see inspiring and empathetic messages from David Dahl and Yonathan Daza.

As well as chick-flick recommendations from Ryan McMahon.