Major League Baseball is closely monitoring the spread of the coronavirus across the U.S. with the disease spiking in Arizona, Texas, Florida, and California- states that are home to 10 big-league teams.
An abbreviated season is slated to begin July 23 with clubs expected to report to their home ballparks for three weeks of training on Friday after passing tests for the virus.
But considering the precipitous spike of cases in the Phoenix area where the Arizona Diamondbacks train and play, team general manager Mike Hazen said Monday the team is looking at out-of-state alternatives in the case it can’t play its home games at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix.
“There will be an alternative, yes,” Hazen said. “I don’t have that alternative at the present.”
The Diamondbacks also train in nearby Scottsdale at the Salt River Fields complex it shares with the Colorado Rockies.
At the same time, Arizona pitcher Mike Leake joined Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman by opting out of the season Monday, saying it wasn’t in the best interest of him or his family to play. Zimmerman’s Washington teammate Joe Ross and Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond have also announced they will not play this season.
Rockies GM Jeff Bridich said that his club would split its three-week training camp between Denver and Albuquerque rather than Salt River Fields with the coronavirus situation in Arizona being one of the main considerations.
“The spike in Phoenix is concerning to everybody down there,” said Bridich, who praised officials in Colorado, which had 204 new cases and five deaths Monday.
Later in the day, Arizona governor Doug Ducey again shutdown many of the businesses and places of large gatherings in the state for 30 days to try and again flatten the curve. The state opened prematurely in early May and since then cases, hospitalizations and deaths have considerably grown.
In Texas and Florida, bars have already just been closed and in California the governor is taking measures to limit business in six of that state’s hardest hit counties.
MLB told Sportico in a statement that Commissioner Rob Manfred and the owners are closely watching the situation as it develops, saying the sport will return “only when it is safe to do so and consistent with public health concerns.”
“For us, this means that, at a minimum, we will play in a particular location only when we have approval from all relevant governmental authorities,” the statement read. “This situation may change as developments with respect to the virus occur. If and when that happens, we will make adjustments to comply with any change in governmental policy.
“Independent of any governmental regulation, MLB will continually monitor the developing course of the pandemic with our experts. We will consult with the Players Association and will make operational decisions with the safety of our players and staff as the foremost consideration.”
The union didn’t respond to a request to comment.
MLB has been shuttered since March 12, a day after the National Basketball Association ceased play and hours after the National Hockey League followed suit.
Both of those indoor sports are planning to resume what remains of the regular season and the playoffs in bubble situations, the NBA in Orlando, and the NHL in two cities, perhaps Toronto and Las Vegas.
On the day sports closed there were 40 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. There are now 2.5 million cases and at least 126,000 deaths attributed to the virus.
Of the pro sports, only MLB is intent on traveling, even if it’s only within regions. The question is whether the sport can even make it to the end of July and start the season.
“Things are changing every day,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “I think everyone is aware of that potential. We’re preparing as though we’re going to play. Burt we’re also aware of what’s going on nationally.”