As the delay to the start of the 2020 Major League Baseball season continues due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the longer it drags it out the greater the need for a substantial second Spring Training becomes.
When MLB first pushed back Opening Day for two weeks, Los Angeles Dodgers managers Dave Roberts highlighted the need for pitchers to continue throwing. “If you’re going to take three days off, you might as well take three weeks off,” he said at the time.
MLB has since suspended all Spring Training operations and taken further action amid the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommending gatherings of 50 or more people be cancelled at least through May 10.
That timeline suggests camps are more a minimum of six weeks from opening for the start of a second Spring Training. A best-case scenario has the MLB season beginning in early June.
The layoff figures to present a unique challenge for pitchers as they will be tasked with ramping back up for a second time. “Everyone is a little different but I think most pitchers would want three starts,” Ross Stripling told DodgerBlue.com in an exclusive interview.
“Two, three, four; or three, four, five innings. So that puts it at 15 days, at least, for a Spring Training 2.0. I think most people could be ready after that. It sounds like we might have expanded rosters.
“If you go back to the ’94-95 strike, they opened up with expanded rosters, so I think we’d be looking at a situation like that. Especially if these rumors of multiple doubleheaders a week are true. So I think most guys would want at least three starts.
“That’s going to be what takes the most time. Hitters, they only need a handful of games and they’re ready. Starting pitchers have to build up, so that’s where time is going to become a factor.”
With players no longer to permitted to gather for workouts at Camelback Ranch, Dodgers were given the opportunity to remain in Arizona, head to L.A. or return to their offseason home. Stripling and his wife Shelby elected to make their way back to Houston.
“It’s been interesting. I really battled whether to stay in Arizona, whether to go to Los Angeles or come home to Texas,” he explained. At first we thought it was just a couple weeks, so it was like, I’ve got to stay off the mound, I’ve got to stay built up.
“Then all of a sudden we’re on basically a no more than 10 people at a time for eight weeks, which puts that into the middle of May, which means another Spring Training can’t start until May. That means you’re almost not looking at Opening Day until June at some point.
“Now it’s basically like it’s early January of an offseason, so it’s back to getting big and strong and staying in shape. You’re throwing off the mound a little bit but it’s not your top priority. You’re basically just trying to stay in shape and we’re all waiting for a phone call to get some more information.”
As a licensed stockbroker who keeps a particularly keen eye on markets during the offseason, Stripling had early awareness of the impact the spread of coronavirus was having on China. However, that MLB has not yet started its season and is open to potentially playing without fans in attendance nonetheless was a shock.
“I don’t think we really thought it would come to this,” Stripling said. “Every day it seemed to get a little more serious and once you have mega enterprises like the NBA and March Madness shutting their doors, you kind of had the feeling we were going to follow suit.
“They were showing that Orioles game from a few years ago where they were playing in front of no fans and it was almost eerie to have no white noise in the background. It does sound very funny. Obviously, we’re in the entertainment business and fans, that’s what we get up for. That’s what we’re excited about.
“A lot of times your body hurts and you’re struggling, and then you got outside and see 40,000 Dodger fans in the stadium and you don’t feel any pain anymore. Your adrenaline takes over and you’re excited. It would be very, very different.
“Obviously not what we want to do, but at the end of the day we do want to get on the field and play baseball. If that’s the only way to do it, then obviously we’re open to it.”
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