Last week, the Yankees took a stand against the novel coronavirus pandemic. The club emphatically voted without dissent to continue working out at the organization's Spring Training facility. It was a sign of hope to the fanbase and baseball community that at least one team could maintain a semblance of normalcy.
Now, with COVID-19 continuing to spread and MLB electing to postpone Opening Day for another eight weeks, attendance at the Yankees' complex is dwindling. Skipper Aaron Boone admitted on MLB Network Radio on Monday that "it’s getting more and more challenging" to keep everyone around.
“Our guys really wanted to stay and work out,” the Yankee manager explained. "[We're] trying to keep up as best we can. It obviously continues to move really fast. We’ll just try and keep our guys abreast as best we can.”
On the Grapefruit League calendar – now a collector's item since MLB suspended Spring Training last week – Monday was a scheduled day off for the Yankees. Players chose to honor the outdated schedule and stay home after a weekend of workouts for a dispersed, yet substantial, batch of Bombers.
With the club's Minor League players in self-quarantine for the next two weeks, after a Yankees' Minor Leaguer tested positive for COVID-19, the virus has particularly resonated with Boone and the entire Yankees family.
That said, Boone disclosed on Monday that he plans on departing from the club's facility in the next day or two to start driving back to New York. He cited spending time with his four kids – ranging in age from high school to elementary school – as a chief reason for his intentions.
“That’s my plan right now," he said. "Right now, I think I’m probably planning on going home for a little while … I’m looking forward to getting back with my kids. I know that they’ve started their online schooling."
If he does in fact pack his bags and hit the road early this week, the skipper aims to keep in touch with Yankees' general manager Brian Cashman – as well as other coaches and executives – on a daily basis.
Players could be leaving in the near future as well. Still, Boone is confident the Yankees' players – a star-powered roster with World Series expectations – will stay safe and do their best to stay ready.
“I feel like our guys, as a whole, do a good job of preparing themselves and putting themselves in a good position, so I’m confident that our guys will be really responsible no matter where they disperse to, or if they stay here,” Boone said. “I know they’re going to do all they can to stay ready, stay fresh and prepare.”
Finding silver lining nowadays is easier said than done. Boone called the present day "uncharted waters," explaining his hopes to do his part as the virus' footprint continues to grow. From a baseball perspective, however, Boone admitted MLB's decision to postpone the season eight weeks has the potential to be immensely beneficial for this club's injured players.
“[James Paxton] just started throwing. He’s doing really well. Giancarlo [Stanton] is doing really well. Aaron [Judge], with a chance to continue to rest and heal up, there’s no question this is going to give those guys a chance to be part of our season from the start potentially," he explained. "That’s one thing that at least is a little bit exciting about it."
Paxton had recently resumed his throwing program for the first time since lower back surgery last month. The club expects the southpaw to be available in mid-May – potentially perfect timing with an additional Spring Training on pace to begin around then as of now.
Stanton is nursing a Grade 1 right calf strain but had resumed on-field baseball activity last week – homering in his first live batting practice since sustaining the injury in fielding drills late last month. New York expects the slugger to be fully healthy, barring setbacks, in mid-April.
Finally, Judge is expected to undergo an additional CT scan to re-evaluate the stress fracture in his first right rib. Should surgery not be necessary, the star right fielder could begin his recovery and expedite his return.
Regardless, with lives at stake and a nation confronting widespread uncertainty, Boone clarified that baseball has taken a back seat for the time being. To him, "one of the most important things" is being there for loved ones and helping slow down the virus in the coming weeks.
"The biggest thing is obviously this thing is way bigger than all of us," he said. "This is bigger than baseball. We just want to do our part.”
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