Maybe we should call it summer training.
If and when the baseball season resumes, the Mets tentatively plan to reconvene and work out at their Clover Park facility in Port St. Lucie, Florida, to prepare for the regular season, sources said. So it would be spring training activities at their spring training site — not Citi Field — just as summer is about to arrive.
The Yankees also would return to Florida to work out at George M. Steinbrenner Field and the team’s training complex in Tampa to prepare for the regular season, according to a source.
MLB hopes to start spring training 2.0 by mid-June and have Opening Day in early July. For the restart camp, which would last about three weeks, teams are allowed to choose between their usual spring training locale and their regular-season city.
For real games, the strong preference is for teams to be based at home. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said this week that he wants to help that happen for the Mets, Yankees and New York’s other pro sports teams, calling the state “a ready, willing and able partner.”
For the Mets and Yankees, regrouping in Florida has benefits, including lower COVID-19 pandemic statistics compared with New York. Clover Park offers multiple fields — the stadium, five full practice fields and a couple of specialized practice fields — as opposed to the one Citi Field would offer. The facilities aren’t as great as the regular ballpark, though $57 million of renovations completed in February helped close the gap.
Steinbrenner Field has the main field where spring training games are contested and three additional fields. The minor-league complex, which is less than a mile away, also has four fields.
Among the cons to returning to Florida is the potentially miserable weather, including heat, humidity and thunderstorms. And the Mets and Yankees will have to implement whatever health and safety protocols come of the MLB-players’ union renegotiations at two facilities instead of one.
Several Mets have stuck it out in Port St. Lucie since MLB shut down March 12: Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo and Michael Wacha. A handful of others — including Jacob deGrom in DeLand, Pete Alonso, Marcus Stroman and Dominic Smith in the Tampa area and Wilson Ramos and Luis Guillorme in southeast Florida — are elsewhere in the state.
When things shut down, only rehabbing Yankees Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Luis Severino were at Steinbrenner Field regularly. Tyler Wade, J.A. Happ and DJ LeMahieu are among those who recently rejoined that group.
Three weeks or so of spring training-type buildup won’t be enough for pitchers to be fully stretched out the way they usually are in late March. That is one reason any MLB-union agreement is expected to include expanded active rosters — from 26 to about 30, with a so-called taxi squad of about 20 players standing by if a team needs a replacement.
Restarting spring training at all is not a certainty, though many within the game are optimistic and teams around baseball have been reopening facilities for individual player workouts. MLB and the players’ union, which began formal talks last week, still need to agree on two major issues: health and safety norms and player pay.
With Erik Boland