While Major League Baseball remains on hiatus, league officials are doing their best to prepare for what a return to play could look like. On top of all the scheduling scenarios, one issue in particular that's sure to become a sticking point is just what kind of ramp-up period teams will need before their rosters are ready for Opening Day.
"Knowing that so many players are not even having any access to throwing at all or hitting at all, but most importantly just throwing, and probably limited access to just training and exercise, it's hard to imagine we could get ready in less than four weeks," Shapiro said in a teleconference, via the Associated Press.
Shapiro acknowledged these talks are a bit premature as the world continues to grapple with the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The team president said they're still waiting on a slowdown in the number of positive cases before baseball can continue.
"I do think that we're, by and large, waiting for some sort of flattening of the curve and recognition that we have done our best to limit the strain on the healthcare system and the economic system," Shapiro said. "Until that time, the exact outcome and impact on our schedule, and all of the corresponding business that cascades off that, really can't be determined. It certainly looks like we are not dealing with days and likely not weeks, but closer to months."
MLB officially suspended activities on March 12 by canceling exhibition games and pushing Opening Day back by two weeks. It became clear shortly after that 14 days would not be a long enough delay. Commissioner Rob Manfred has not given an updated timeline on when the season could begin. In the meantime, two minor league players have tested positive for COVID-19 and the league is preparing for it to reach major leaguers at large.
While athletes were given their own workout plans before being sent home from spring training, that can only do so much—and it's hard to adhere to strict exercise routines in the midst of a national emergency that requires staying home as much as possible.
"The physical exercise they can do is as much about mental health and maintaining some semblance of normalcy and routine, and probably a little bit less baseball-specific," Shapiro said. "There's almost no one who could maintain game-ready shape in light of circumstances."
Teams still have yet to trim rosters down to 26 players and were still weeks away from doing so at the time training camps were halted. It all creates more hurdles for MLB as sports leagues worldwide continue creating new contingencies.
Whenever baseball does officially return, it's clear a ramp-up period will be vital.