The Miami Marlins arrived at Marlins Park on Friday, treating it like February at their Roger Dean spring complex in Jupiter. A feeling of new beginnings in the air, teammates catching up after months of not seeing each other, and getting themselves back into game-shape. But beyond those intangibles, this workout was much different from any other that the Marlins have ever experienced.
For one, it’s already July, which should be more than three full months into the 2020 Major League Baseball season. Instead of the Fish entering the dog days of summer, they are simply trying to loosen up their bodies after being relatively dormant since mid-March.
With the coronavirus pandemic cancelling major sports across the world, the revised Marlins Opening Day is slated to be July 24, with workouts starting this week for all clubs.
This will begin the most abbreviated and restrictive season in modern MLB history. The new 101-page operations manual outlines precautions and protocols for this season. Some of these protocols include a ban on spitting, strict rules against fights and arguments, and social distancing within the dugouts.
Although the manual does not specify what is/isn’t allowed outside the ballpark, player such as Isan Díaz acknowledged that they had a responsibility to themselves and the team prior to coming to the park.
“Just try to stay safe and indoors as much as possible, and obviously try to stay ready as well,” Diaz said in a Zoom call with media. It was something that was not difficult, but interesting. The tasks we had to do to stay ready and the different types of things we did just to try to stay in condition. It was fun, but now we’re back so it’s cool.”
As of Friday afternoon, no players were sent home due to positive test results, although an undisclosed number of players and staff had tested positive prior to the official report date of July 1, and another group of players are waiting to get their results from the intake screening that happened on Wednesday.
As for the workouts themselves, 33 players were in attendance at Marlins Park, including new free agent signings Jonathan Villar and Corey Dickerson. Most of the workouts were basic warm-ups, such as batting practice and infield drills.
Although the circumstances around this workout were much different than the usual spring training workouts, Marlins manager Don Mattingly said that the atmosphere felt very similar to the beginning of spring.
“You do feel that same excitement that you feel early in spring or when you first get into spring training,” Don Mattingly said. “You can see the guys are legitimately excited about being back...When we got out on the field and guys started working, it felt a lot like the beginning of spring training knowing that our opportunity is here.”
With the 2020 season only lasting 60 games, that “opportunity” that Mattingly speaks of isn’t just coach speak. According to FanGraphs, the Marlins’ chance of making the postseason prior to the season being shortened was just 0.1 percent. Now, that number stands at 8.7 percent. It is enough of a spike for Marlins president of baseball operations Mike Hill to say “why not us?” when speaking to the media earlier in the week.
As we get closer to the regular season opener, Fish Stripes will keep you updated on workout news for the Miami and Jupiter squads, which includes rookie pitcher Max Meyer. The next workout will be Saturday afternoon, and Fish Stripes will have full coverage for it.