Phillies' Zack Wheeler Says MLB's Reported Arizona Plan 'Not Going to Work'

Megan ArmstrongSenior Analyst IIApril 9, 2020

CLEARWATER, FLORIDA - MARCH 05: Zack Wheeler #45 of the Philadelphia Phillies delivers a pitch during the first inning of a Grapefruit League spring training game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Spectrum Field on March 05, 2020 in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Major League Baseball does not have support from Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Zack Wheeler to conduct the 2020 season strictly in Arizona amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"I couldn’t even imagine missing the birth and just not being around and going, 'Hey, I'll see you in December' or whenever it is," Wheeler told The Athletic's Andy McCullough in a story published Tuesday. "That's not going to work."

Wheeler and his wife, Dominique, are expected to welcome their first child in July.

ESPN's Jeff Passan reported late Monday night that MLB was focused on starting the season "as early as May" and outlined a plan being discussed:

"The plan, sources said, would dictate that all 30 teams play games at stadiums with no fans in the Phoenix area, including the Arizona Diamondbacks' Chase Field, 10 spring training facilities and perhaps other nearby fields. Players, coaching staffs and other essential personnel would be sequestered at local hotels, where they would live in relative isolation and travel only to and from the stadium, sources said.

"Federal officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the National Institutes of Health have been supportive of a plan that would adhere to strict isolation, promote social distancing and allow MLB to become the first professional sport to return."

Wheeler wasn't the only player to express concerns to McCullough. Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale, who underwent Tommy John surgery last month, similarly wouldn't prefer to "look at my kids through a screen for four or five months" as a father of three.

Cleveland manager Terry Francona and Eireann Dolan, wife to Washington Capitals reliever Sean Doolittle, were also pessimistic:

Eireann Dolan @EireannDolan

Ok now what about the non-millionaire hotel workers, security staff, grounds crews, media members, team traveling staffs, clubhouse attendants, janitorial workers, food service workers, and the billion other people required to make that 3.5 hour game happen every night? https://t.co/NIbqsjejvQ

However, stars including New York Yankees pitcher Adam Ottavino and Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado are open to the idea.

Joel Sherman @Joelsherman1

Adam Ottavino: "I’ve seen it (the Arizona idea). I don’t have any good insight but I would be in the camp of supporting the idea.  I’m sure a lot would have to go right for it to actually happen but I’m hoping it can work because I want to play.” #Yankees

MLB released a statement Tuesday morning saying no plan has been decided upon:

MLB Communications @MLB_PR

Major League Baseball issued the following statement this morning: https://t.co/zyjrbGICVQ

The league canceled all remaining spring training activities and delayed Opening Day to comply with social distancing regulations and orders against large public gatherings.