It was just over a week ago that players on the Yankees' 40-man roster voted unanimously to stay in Tampa and work out informally as a team until some clarity emerged on the coronavirus crisis and its impact on spring training.
No one needs to be told how quickly things have changed in the world since that vote occurred on the morning of March 13. Major League Baseball officially suspended all spring training activities later that afternoon, and it didn’t take long for players and staff not living locally to begin departing Tampa.
Included in that group was manager Aaron Boone, who left Steinbrenner Field early Tuesday afternoon to start his approximate 17-hour drive home to Greenwich, Connecticut, to be with his family.
“Literally in the last week, it’s changed so much, almost every 12, 24 hours,” Boone said a day earlier on SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio. “Our guys really wanted to stay and work out. Now as the last couple of days have unfolded, that’s looking like it’s getting more and more challenging. It changes all the time.”
Indeed. By Friday morning, only a handful of players were at Steinbrenner Field, a gathering that included Aaron Judge, Clint Frazier, Luis Severino, Mike Ford and Tyler Wade.
It's very much an open question how much longer even the local crew will have Steinbrenner Field as an option to continue their workouts. MLB and the Players Association is scheduled to meet again on Monday to address that and other matters associated with the pandemic.
“A lot of guys are still here as long as this is open,” Yankees player rep Zack Britton said last Monday (his “a lot of guys” comment became dated less than a day after he said it). “Unless the CDC [Centers for Disease Control] or the health department shut it down. But obviously there's a ban on gatherings of 50 or more people, so if the health department or the CDC wants to shut facilities down, then the teams' hands are tied, and guys will have to find another place to work out. And most guys wouldn't have an alternative workout option in Tampa. Maybe even not at home, so guys are in a tricky spot. But a lot of guys are still planning on hanging around. Some guys are going home. I don't have an exact number.”
Among the things that changed for the Yankees and their players was two minor-leaguers in their system testing positive for the virus in a four-day stretch, with the first positive test publicly disclosed on March 14. The Yankees are the only team in the majors to have any players in their system test positive, but it seems only a matter of time before other clubs experience the same issue, whether it be at the minor-league level or the major-league level.
The Yankees shuttered their minor-league complex March 13 and it will remain closed until at least Wednesday. The team’s approximately 150 players in minor-league camp are under quarantine until that day, as is much of the player development staff. All are receiving a stipend and at least three meals a day, with more food available if desired.
As of 5 p.m. Saturday, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, Illinois and Oregon had instituted stay-at-home orders in the last three days. With so much changing by the hour throughout the world and country, trying to figure out when spring training will reboot, let alone attempting to divine a start date of any kind for the 2020 season, is pointless.
“We communicate as a team through an app that we have that we communicate with everyone on, so we try and get messaging out that way,” Boone said. “It’s communicated, constant conversation, cellphones, talking to coaches, specific coaches talking to certain positions. Just 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.”