Less than one week after the Yankees banded together in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic – voting unanimously to stay put despite Spring Training's suspension – players and coaches have begun to head home.
Skipper Aaron Boone revealed his plans to depart and head home on Monday and followed through with it Tuesday morning. He briefly stopped to notify reporters of his intentions before driving out of the Bombers' complex with no plans to return any time soon.
Outfielder Mike Tauchman also indicated to reporters that he was heading home as well.
Yankees players were given the option by Major League Baseball to leave their spring facility. They're permitted to return to their personal homes across the nation, travel to New York City or to stay put.
For veteran left-hander J.A. Happ – who lives in nearby Clearwater, Fla. – living relatively close to the Yankees' spring complex gives him an opportunity to be with his family while still utilizing the organization's facilities. His teammates, in this ever-changing situation, face a difficult decision. Should they stay or should they go?
"I've certainly never gone through anything like this,” Happ explained, also speaking through the window of his vehicle while leaving George M. Steinbrenner Field. “I don’t think many of us have. It’s starting to just hit home a little more every day, it seems like."
As COVID-19 continues to spread, players are undoubtedly apprehensive to head home and potentially be at risk of contracting the virus. Further, without access to proper equipment, heading home would be a major step away from staying ready for when baseball resumes.
“A lot of guys at home right now don’t have an option to go work out,” player representative Zack Britton told reporters. “A lot of guys train at universities, and those are shut down right now. If guys go home, unless they have resources at their home [such as] a gym or a place to throw, then it’s going to be tough for a little while.”
Not knowing when they need to be ready for is just another added wrinkle to this dilemma.
“We don’t know how long this delay is going to be,” Britton said to reporters. “If you’re talking about the end of May or June or something like that, then guys might take a few weeks and go home. There’s that give-and-take because you don’t want to just constantly be training at a really, really high level when we’re not going to start action again until another two months or so. You want guys to be healthy and recovered, so it’s going to be tricky.”
Within the last three days, two Yankees' Minor League players have tested positive for COVID-19 – the only two known cases of the coronavirus in Major League Baseball. Yankees' general manager Brian Cashman told media on Tuesday that he wasn't ready to address reports of a second case, but confirmed he will stay put in Tampa indefinitely.
Despite cases at the Minor League complex, stars Gerrit Cole, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton were spotted at New York's Major League facility. With the season delayed eight weeks, in accordance to the CDC's recommendation, spring workouts are an adjustment for everyone.
“We’re treating it like an offseason,” Britton explained. “We don’t have coaches around in the offseason. I think that’s where guys are right now until we have a better understanding of it, like an exact start date. The government says that people can’t gather [in groups of] more than 50, so I think until that’s lifted, we’re going to have to make do with what we have down here.”
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