Diamondbacks minor-leaguer tests negative for coronavirus as team adjusts to new normal

Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen said the club’s spring facility will remain open on an “optional basis,” but no formal workouts will be held until cleared by the league. (File photo by Alexis Ramanjulu/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – With spring training suspended and the start of the 2020 season postponed, the Arizona Diamondbacks are trying to adapt to a new normal.

Instead of players working out in batting cages, employees are cleaning them. Instead of administering tests for speed and agility, the team had to administer a test to a minor-leaguer for COVID-19.

It came back negative.

On Thursday, Major League Baseball announced the suspension of spring training and the delay of opening day by at least two weeks “due to the national emergency created by the coronavirus pandemic.”

On Monday, the league said the start would be further delayed under recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention restricting events of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks.

Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen said the club’s spring training facility will remain open on an “optional basis,” but no formal workouts will be held until the team is given clearance by the league. Hazen, who spoke with reporters via conference call Friday, said players have been encouraged to go home.

“We’re obviously taking every precaution as necessary and with guidance to ensure the cleanliness and standard of the facility, to make sure it’s still a safe environment for everybody.”

Hazen said the organization tested one player for COVID-19, out of “an abundance of caution.” The player initially was tested for the flu, which also came back negative. No other players have experienced novel coronavirus symptoms or have been tested.

“If they show signs and symptoms,” he said, “we’re following the guidance of our medical professionals and what they advise us to do. We have advised our players to report any symptoms to us moving forward.”

The Diamondbacks facility was shut down over the weekend for a “deep clean,” Hazen said, adding that this is likely to become a regular practice over the next few weeks.

Although no formal workouts will be held, players and staff are expected to use the facility to stay in shape, given most players live in Arizona during the off-season and spring.

“We haven’t really tackled how exactly we’re going to staff anything,” Hazen said. “We gave the staff the same method that we gave the players: We would encourage them to be here. If they don’t feel comfortable being here, then we respect that. We don’t foresee any reason why they should be.”

Hazen, who’ll stick around the spring facility, said he expects D-backs manager Torey Lovullo to be “in and out” of the complex during this time.

“But again, depending on how many players are here, if we need to have supervised workouts, people throwing, doing soft-toss, hitting ground balls, whatever that may be, we want to make sure we have enough supervision. But if that number is smaller, we’ll staff it accordingly.”

The organization has largely taken scouts off of the road. It has eliminated air-travel and advised “regional scouting via auto if people were comfortable doing it,” Hazen said.

But if there’s no baseball to be seen anywhere, there’s no need for scouts to be on the road.

Although players have been advised to go home, Hazen said minor league players have been “given the same guidance that we gave the other (players),” citing the lack of workouts at this point in the spring.

“We are cognizant of guys who may have trouble traveling certain players. We’re not going to encourage them to do that.”

Hazen said he “hasn’t been given guidance” on how the organization will pay minor leagues during the suspension.

It remains unclear, when baseball does return, how long players will need to get in game shape. Hazen said the main focus right now is on the safety and health of his players and their families.

“We’re all adjusting to this the same way you guys have a lot of questions. Trying to foreshadow a little bit, but wanting to make sure we’re operating within the guidelines of Major League Baseball and the government.”

Sports Reporter, Phoenix