Three Washington Nationals — first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, pitcher Joe Ross and former Orioles catcher Welington Castillo — opted out of the 2020 season because of the coronavirus pandemic.
So far, none of the Orioles have, including first baseman Chris Davis.
“Unless I was going to be a high-risk guy, there was no thought of opting out,” Davis said on a Zoom conference call after the Orioles’ first day of summer workouts at Camden Yards on Friday.
Davis was 7-for-15 (.467) with three home runs and nine RBIs during spring training.
“I felt like I was off to a good start during the first spring training,” said Davis, who batted .179 last season and .168 in 2018. “I felt like I was headed in the right direction, and I wanted to see how that played out. After the way things went down over the last few months with negotiations and all that stuff, I was ready to get back out on the field and ready to start playing again.
“I was tired of hitting in the cage, tired of working out in the garage. I’m ready to start the season, no matter how many games that might be.”
Davis is the Orioles’ player representative, and he shared what he was hearing from the union to his teammates. The Major League Baseball season will get under way on July 23-24 with a 60-game schedule.
“I felt like guys were very attentive,” he said. ‘I felt like they were paying attention to what was going on.”
Davis said he was proud of how the Orioles players stayed united.
“We’re such a young clubhouse,” Davis said. “It was a tough position to be in. There was so much waiting, so many unknowns … For those guys to stay in tune and not check out, it’s a tribute to them.”
The 60-game season is novel, and Davis knows that there are a host of uncertainties.
“They’re trying to get in as many as they can,” Davis said. “It’s just going to be tough to navigate this whole thing with the virus spiking certain places throughout the country. It’s going to be touch and feel for the first weeks, if not the whole time. I’m excited that we’re giving it a shot and we’re going to try to play some games.”
MLB and the Players Association announced on Friday that 1.2 percent of those tested for Covid-19 tested positive.
“If you get the virus and you’re doing the right thing, that’s one thing,” Davis said. “But if you’re doing things that you shouldn’t be doing and you get sick, you’re going to have to answer to a clubhouse full of guys.”
LeBlanc learning new things: When left-hander Wade LeBlanc pitches in a game for the Orioles, it will be his eighth new team.
On his first day as a home player with the Orioles, LeBlanc, 35, was placed along with the other 26 pitchers in the visiting clubhouse with proper social distancing. Position players were in the home clubhouse.
Players were encouraged to spend time outside, not in the clubhouse. When it was time to eat, meals were prepackaged, and there weren’t any tables in the food room nor were there any couches in the clubhouse.
“It’s pretty weird to say the least,” LeBlanc said of his first day in the summer training session.
He did some things he normally does, played catch and threw in the bullpen, but he did some new things, too.
“Washed my hands before and after in the bullpen, which was kind of strange,” LeBlanc said.
Even with the strangeness, LeBlanc was happy to report to the Orioles
“With so many unknowns, there’s always going to be a reservation here and there,” he said.
“Outside of that, you understand you have a job to do, and over the last 13, 14 years, this is all I’ve known. It’s wanting to get back to normal for the most part, normal as much as possible with everything that’s going on. It’s something that, as baseball players, we want to get out there and play baseball. That’s what we’re hoping to do.”
Once LeBlanc and his teammates get used to the new health protocols, more will be familiar.
“It’s hard to anticipate getting ourselves ready in any other way than we’ve always done,” he said. “You’re still going to throw bullpens, you’re still going to work out. You’re still going to get your running in and all of that stuff.
“Other than wearing a mask in the clubhouse and staying away from people, getting ready is pretty much the same as it’s always been. That’s the goal right now, use these next 20 days as best we can and go out there and play baseball for some fans—on TV.”
Even though he thinks he’s in shape, there’s still much work to be done.
“As a competitor, you’d like to see that you could go out and pitch in a big league game today and have success,” said LeBlanc, who’s 45-47 in 11 seasons. “With time, brains and experience, you understand that nothing can simulate the adrenaline, the energy draining that happens in a major league club. Nothing can properly simulate that outside of being in a game and facing major league hitters.”
LeBlanc threw six innings in a live batting practice session.
“It’s not the same,” he said. “It’s not anywhere the same universe it is pitching in a major league game. Fortunately, that’s what we have three weeks to do, to get built up as much as possible and get ready for those major league hitters.”
While he was home, LeBlanc enjoyed time with his two sons, one of whom plays T-Ball, and the other is in Coach-Pitch.
“I got to actually pitch against 7-year-olds a few times,” LeBlanc said.