Red Sox Pitching Coach Dave Bush Tells His Pitchers to Maintain ‘Normal Throwing Programs’ While Awaiting MLB’s Return

At this point exactly one year ago, Red Sox pitchers had combined to throw exactly 411 innings through the club’s first 46 games of the 2019 season.

Flash forward to 2020, and that number of innings pitched on the same date stands at zero, and it appears that it will stay at zero until at least early July.

First-year Red Sox pitching coach Dave Bush, who was appointed to the position last October in place of Dana LeVangie, would be learning the ropes of his new post under normal circumstances. Instead, due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has put Major League Baseball on hold for the time being, Bush, like many across the sport, have to find new ways to coach up his players.

In a recent conversation with The Athletic’s Peter Gammons, Bush, 40, said that he has told the Boston pitching staff to stick with “normal throwing programs” until they know when they can get back to a spring training setting and can “begin a supervised program for the season” from there.

This is the same sort of sentiment Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom echoed earlier this month in a radio interview with WEEI’s Ordway, Merloni, and Fauria regarding the pandemic-induced shutdown’s effect on players.

“Even if we have a spring training, however long that spring training is, guys will need to get ramped up well in advance of that to make sure they’re in shape and make sure they can safely get back up to ready to roll whenever the season does start,” he said. “We are so used to working backward from a specific start date and we can’t do that right now. So we’re trying to keep them at a level that is responsible where we’re not trying to get them at too high a gear and then ask them to hold. But we also want to make sure they don’t run out of time to get up to speed if and when we do get a specific start date. So we’re just trying to find that happy medium.”

The conventional version of spring training was suspended by MLB on March 13th. The majority of Red Sox players left Fort Myers at the time to return to their respective homes, but it appears that some individuals, such as Alex Verdugo and Chris Sale, have returned to work out at the Fenway South complex in recent weeks. More could return relatively soon, too, considering how Florida has been loosening its COVID-19-related restrictions across the state.

According to Gammons, MLB clubs are currently terrified of two things. The first being a potential second wave of the coronavirus and all the ramifications that come with it, and the second being “that the re-ramping-up process, coming four-plus months after the initial ramping-up process, will result in a rash of injuries.”

To add on to that, Gammons writes, “Two prominent orthopedic surgeons with significant baseball experience have predicted waiting lines at the doors of Dr. James Andrews, Dr. Neal ElAttrache and the many other physicians who have preserved so many careers.”

The re-ramping up process that Gammons mentions should be a concern for pitching coaches and general managers across the league. I can’t say for sure, but it seems like these guys went into ‘prepare for the season mode’ around the same time they are accustomed to and then all of a sudden were told to go into ‘offseason mode’ just like that. I’m no pitching guru, but disrupting someone’s routine like that has to have negative connotations, right?

For now, it will be fascinating to see how Bush continues to coach his pitching staff without being in the same physical location as them.

Red Sox Could Play Games at Empty Fenway Park This Summer, per Boston Mayor Marty Walsh

Boston mayor Marty Walsh is open to the idea of the Red Sox playing games at Fenway Park this summer under two conditions: no fans would be allowed in the stands and the City of Boston would have have to sign off on “advanced health and safety protocols that protect not only the athletes, but also everyone else reporting to the workplace,” per The Boston Globe’s Michael Silverman.

Speaking with Silverman in an over-the-phone interview earlier Friday, Walsh emphasized the safety of all parties involved in this challenging process.

“Yes, as long as the players and the teams and the support staff and all the people that are associated with it are safe and feel comfortable,” he said, “Obviously, their health is important to me as well, many of them are constituents of mine and even if they’re not constituents of mine, I obviously want people to be healthy and safe. That’s going to be the biggest challenge that they’re going to have to figure out and meet if they’re going to move forward here.”

Walsh mentioned how he had recently spoken with Red Sox team president and CEO Sam Kennedy. The two talked about MLB’s plan to get baseball back this year, although no specific dates to get the sport back have been set to this point in time.

Still, the league and its players association are hashing out negotiations about a potential return to baseball in 2020, and if an agreement is reached sooner rather than later, the City of Boston would have to ensure that MLB’s COVID-19 protocols meet its own.

“We want to see the plan,” Walsh said. “We’ll have our public health experts take a look at it and make sure that they feel like everything is covered that needs to be covered moving forward here…They’re personal teams and they have employees, and we want to make sure the teams and the employees are taking care of everything and looking through it all so that we can make sure if it does open it’s open in a safe way and the virus doesn’t spread.”

This applies to the Bruins and Celtics, whose respective seasons were abruptly suspended in March, as well.

Opening Fenway Park and the TD Garden back up to its tenants does not involve letting fans back in anytime soon, however. This is mainly due to the fact that we are still pretty far away from getting a vaccine.

Despite how unfortunate that may sound for fans across the city, Walsh is still looking forward to the return of professional sports. whenever that may be.

“I think if baseball could come back like we’re seeing in Taiwan and South Korea, I think that’s good for people to have a distraction,” Walsh said. “I think sports is one aspect of that. People have different reasons for distraction and sports is one, and I think it would help a lot of people’s psyches as far as having baseball and sports back.”

To get sports back at all though, one would assume that the City of Boston would have to open back up first. And until more information is gathered on the ever-changing coronavirus, that still might not be for quite some time.

Former Red Sox Star Mookie Betts Buys Groceries for Shoppers at Tennessee Supermarket

Under normal circumstances, former Red Sox star and current Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts would be about seven weeks into the 2020 season with his new club.

Instead, due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has put the MLB season on hold for the time being, Betts, like many across the country and world, are stuck at home for the most part.

While it’s still unclear how many games will be played or how much players will be paid this year, which is important in Betts’ case since he will become a free agent for the first time this winter, that is not stopping the 27-year-old from spreading some goodwill during these uncertain times.

According to WSMV-TV’s Chris Harris, Betts “surprised shoppers at the Kroger in Bordeaux, Tenn. by buying their groceries.” The Nashville native also “treated the staff at the store to pizza to thank them for all the hard work they have been doing as essential front-line workers.”

A very generous gesture from a very generous person. Remember, Betts supplied several trays of food to the homeless community outside of the Boston Public Library in the hours following Game 2 of the 2018 World Series at Fenway Park.

He has also used his other passion, bowling, to raise money for various causes in Tennessee and New England in recent years.

MLB Owners Approve Proposal for 2020 Season, League Will Present Plan to Players’ Union Tuesday

Major League Baseball owners have approved a proposal from the league for the 2020 season to present to the MLB Players’ Union, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. The two sides are expected to meet sometime on Tuesday to discuss said plan.

This marks another step towards potentially getting Major League Baseball this year, and as ESPN’s Jeff Passan states, “now is when it starts to get serious.”

Of course, where things go from here depends on how the players’ union feels about all this.

For starters, “Because games, at least initially, will be played without fans, the players’ would be asked to accept a further reduction in pay, most likely by agreeing to a set percentage of revenues for this season only.”

This idea of revenue sharing is apparently a ‘non-starter’ in any proposal the union gets from the league, per The New York Post’s Joel Sherman. Other hurdles include “making players comfortable with protocols/personnel/equipment that play can resume safely,” as well as where teams will play their games.

More specifically, according to Rosenthal, “Teams unable to open in their cities [due to the COVID-19 pandemic] temporarily would relocate, either to their spring training sites or major-league parks in other parts of the country. The same would apply to spring training 2.0 if the league decides to use mostly home parks as opposed to returning to Florida and Arizona.”

The problem with this is that “Not all clubs agree they should train in their home parks, believing spring locales offer a less densely populated, more controlled environment.”

Regionalized schedules consisting of anywhere between 78-82 games and expanded playoffs have also been discussed, while a universal designated hitter and expanded rosters could also be implemented if there is indeed baseball in 2020.

That final part, for now, is still up in the air, though. And although I can’t say for sure, it would appear that the players’ union has final say on the matter. We should hear more about where the MLBPA goes with this on Tuesday.

 

2021 World Baseball Classic Cancelled Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

The 2021 World Baseball Classic will be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to ESPN’s Enrique Rojas.

Per Rojas, a source told him, “The tournament was canceled. It is not the priority right now,” while another source said, “Basically the only thing missing is an official announcement.”

The fifth installment of the international baseball tournament was scheduled to take place from March 9th until March 23rd of next year in the United States, Taiwan, and Japan.

16 countries — Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Taiwan, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the United States and Venezuela — had already qualified for the 2021 WBC since they all participated in 2017.

However, with the tournament increasing its number of participating teams to 20, two additional qualifying tournaments were set to take place in Arizona in March, but they were cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic.

The cancellations of those qualifying events came about three weeks before the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo were also postponed.

As Rojas states, “Because the [WBC] is part of the current Collective Labor Agreement (CBA) between MLB and its players union, which expires in December 2021, rescheduling the tournament must be negotiated.”

USA Today’s Bob Nightengale is reporting that the next World Baseball Classic will either be held in 2023 or 2025. More specific details will likely come into focus once Major League Baseball and the MLBPA agree on a specific date in future negotiations.

MLB Expected to Propose Universal DH for 2020 Season, per Report

Major League Baseball is expected to propose a universal designated hitter for the 2020 season as part of their talks with owners and the MLB Players Association in the coming days, according to The Athletic’s Jim Bowden.

Per Bowden, “Most executives believed prior to the coronavirus shutdown that the [universal DH] would be implemented by 2021 or 2022.” But, due to the unique circumstances in this case, the implementation of the designated hitter in both the American and National Leagues could “be a way to cut down on injuries in a worrisome time,” as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman notes.

The ramifications this has for the Red Sox are not all that significant seeing how the club already has one of the best DHs in baseball in J.D. Martinez. However, if what The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports is accurate, and it likely is, the Sox would play around 80 games this season against opponents “only from their own division and the same geographic division in the opposite league.”

In other words, if there is baseball to be played in 2020, the only other clubs the Red Sox would face in the regular season would be the Yankees, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles, Braves, Nationals, Phillies, Mets, and Marlins.

It’s unclear at this point how many of those games would take place in National League ballparks, but the dread of having to constantly worry about the pitcher’s spot in the lineup in those particular contests would not be an issue if the universal DH is indeed implemented.

Interleague play would take on a whole new meaning in this scenario, and it would certainly serve as an adjustment period for certain National League clubs and a welcomed change for others.

Before anything concrete is laid out though, there are still several hurdles for MLB to jump through.

First, the league has a conference call scheduled with its owners on Monday where plans for a potential 2020 season will be discussed.

If the owners approve of MLB’s plans, that same proposal will be presented to the MLBPA on Tuesday.

Like I said though, there are still plenty of obstacles ahead, especially those of the financial variety.

 

Red Sox’ J.D. Martinez on MLB Season Being Put on Hold Due to Coronavirus Pandemic: ‘I’m 32. I’m an Antique. I Need to Be out There Playing’

Although he is confident that there will be a Major League Baseball season in some capacity in 2020, Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez is still anxiously awaiting to get back to doing what he’s used to doing this time of year.

Entering his third year with the Red Sox, Martinez can opt out of the final two years of the five-year, $110 million contract he signed with Boston in 2018 this winter. That is probably weighing on his mind as well, especially if he’s going to have fewer games to play in this year.

“I’m 32. I’m an antique. I need to be out there playing,” Martinez told The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham on Wednesday. “This sucks. Hopefully we’ll get a day and I can crank it up and get ready.”

Martinez believes that once baseball does return there should be strict policies in regards to testing just about everyone involved with the game for COVID-19. He told the MLB Players Association that much.

“Everyone would need to get tested,” Martinez told Abraham. “Players, coaches, the media, security guards. If you come in the ballpark, you get tested. I’m not an expert on this virus but you need daily testing.”

While waiting out this pandemic from his Fort Lauderdale home, Martinez has been using fellow south Florida native and Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer’s house, which has a batting cage, as a way to stay in shape. Hosmer is currently waiting things out himself in San Diego.

“He has a cage and I can hit there,” said Martinez of Hosmer’s Southwest Ranches residence. “It’s not ideal, but it’s fine. I’m in offseason mode.”

Based off a recent report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan among others, MLB is planning on sending the MLBPA a return-to-play proposal within the next week. This proposal appears to involve a spring training period starting in June and the regular season starting sometime in early July.

Of course, there are still plenty of hurdles to get over, but I can’t imagine players like Martinez, who comes off like a real creature of habit, enjoy being in “offseason mode” in early May.