BALTIMORE — In the days before this most unique of Major League Baseball seasons began, Aaron Boone said he saw a potential “advantage” for his Yankees in it.
The way Boone figured, there would be plenty of inconveniences caused by the COVID-19 pandemic MLB is attempting to contest its season in — and the lengthy list of protocols in the operations manual designed to maximize the chances of completing it — and those teams able to adjust on the fly to it all could benefit.
“We know that there's going to be challenges along the way, just based on what we're dealing with this year,” Boone said before the season. “And I trust that we're going to be really good at handling that and hopefully turn that into even more of an advantage for us.”
A good theory, at any rate, but one relatively untested.
That is, until earlier this week and, by all accounts, the Yankees adjusted without complaint.
Even when that meant an unscheduled bus trip to Baltimore instead of home.
“Everybody seems to be all in,” GM Brian Cashman said of the uniformity of purpose expressed by his players and staff.
After arriving in Philadelphia late Sunday night — having won two of three games vs. the Nationals to open the season in Washington — the Yankees awoke Monday morning to news of a teamwide COVID-19 outbreak on the Marlins, who had just been in the same visitor’s clubhouse the Yankees would be soon occupying at Citizen’s Bank Park.
Monday night’s scheduled game was quickly postponed and the following morning, so too was Tuesday night’s.
The Yankees at that point altered their itinerary, deciding to depart their team hotel in Philadelphia at 2 p.m. and hold an evening workout at Yankee Stadium in preparation for Wednesday night’s home opener vs. the Phillies.
But with the Marlins’ season temporarily suspended — the Phillies’ as well, at least through Friday — that opened up Wednesday and Thursday for the Yankees to play the Orioles at Camden Yards (the Orioles were originally scheduled to play in Miami Wednesday and Thursday) those nights.
Yankees players were consulted — as is required in the CBA between MLB and the Players Association — and Zack Britton, the club’s player rep, soon delivered a simple message to Cashman on behalf of the clubhouse: “Tell us where, and we'll be there.”
"Coming into it, we understood that there was going to be positive tests and there could be a team that had multiple positive tests, a significant amount like the Marlins, so I think everyone understood that this was a possibility,” Britton said Tuesday, shortly before the team bus left for Baltimore and a night workout at Camden Yards.
“And the biggest thing is for us is to continue. We had a discussion, first off, about what was happening here [in Philadelphia]. We were given some options on what we could possibly do. Guys felt like, obviously, we want to play. Our team has done a pretty good job, I think, overall, following the protocols, and our medical staff has done a great job of sanitizing the visiting clubhouse. And we felt like we didn't want to take three to four days off if there's an opportunity for us to go to Baltimore and play."
Music, no doubt, to Boone and Cashman’s ears.
"I definitely feel great about our group,” Boone said. “I'm sure there's other teams that are able to handle different things, but one of the conversations we had going into this is that we always try to be prepared for adversity. We know adversity is coming our way, and 2020 is unlike anything we've all experienced. We know going into this we're going to have to prepare for some uncomfortable situations, some difficult times, some difficult days, from a baseball standpoint, from a virus standpoint, from travels, from inconveniences. And I do feel like we are uniquely equipped to handle that."