The Orioles haven’t emptied their spring training complex in Sarasota, but the number of players are dwindling.
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias indicated this afternoon in a conference call that most of the Orioles returned home due to the coronavirus pandemic. They also were given the choice of going to Baltimore for informal workouts.
“The general state of affairs in the Orioles organization is we have a small group of players that is still in Sarasota,” he said.
“Many of them elected to go home. Almost all of our minor league players are home and safe and have been since the baseball season was postponed. We moved very quickly and immediately on that front to get those guys home and safe. The ones who do remain in Sarasota are safe and sound and are here because they’re from foreign countries that they were not willing to return to at this time or they’re undergoing medical treatments with our staff and needed to remain close to the staff.
“We are checking in with our players daily, both major and minor league players, making sure that they’re in good condition, checking on them in the context of this virus but also their general health and well-being and we feel really good about where are players and staff all are in terms of their safety, that they are where they want to be, that they have people around them.
“Now we are focusing on navigating the next several weeks until we’re playing baseball again.”
Elias talked about speculation that the First-Year Player Draft could be cancelled, how no one in the organization has tested positive for the virus and the freeze on scouting operations.
He also offered a positive update on outfielder Trey Mancini, who’s recovering from surgery to remove a malignant tumor from his colon. Mancini has left the hospital and is “doing really well,” Elias said.
Here’s more from Elias:
On how the shutdown impacted business before today’s optioning of David Hess, Cedric Mullins, Ryan Mountcastle and Ramón Urías to Triple-A Norfolk:
“Normally, we would be having spring training right now and there would be the types of decisions that take place every day as spring training ticks down. Now we’ve just frozen in time. But the cuts that we saw today, those were moves that we had teed up at the time of the sudden cancellation of spring training. And as a lot of teams have done this week, we went ahead and processed them knowing that at some point we’re going to get back here soon playing. If we do have another spring training-type atmosphere, it’s probably going to be pretty short and we still have a very large camp roster that we’re going to need to whittle down in a hurry.
“I talked to those guys, I let them know the player development plans for them, why we were expecting to start them in Triple-A. But they’re all guys that have either played in the big leagues or are really close to the big leagues and they could be back with us very quickly and they’re still part of our plans.”
On guidance he’s received on status of the First-Year Player Draft:
“I have no inside information at this time of what they draft is going to look like beyond what’s been speculated in the media. The league has been very good about communicating with us that they are working on it. There’s a committee of scouting directors who are working on it and today issued guidance that we’re basically freezing all scouting activities so that teams aren’t trying to create advantages for themselves during this idle period while there’s this public health crisis going on.
“I like the fact that we’ve officially been frozen in terms of our activities. We can still evaluate players using video and data and update their scouting reports, and I’ve given our staff some pretty specific about how we want them to spend their time while their housebound and I’m extremely confident that we’ll be as prepared or more prepared than any other team given the way our department is set up and the way they’ve been working and ... we’ll be in good shape for this draft whenever it takes place and how it takes place.”
On level of concern over uncertainty regarding the draft:
“Just being calm and patient about it. There is so much to work through by Major League Baseball and the players union. The list of items is incredibly long and then you start digging into each of those items and how it affects everything else, the ripple effects, it’s just hard to wrap your head around. I know those guys are working around the clock to try to come up with an agreement as quickly as possible and one that makes sense for everybody, and I’m sure that they’ll come up with the best solution they can for the draft one way or another.
“Personally, I hope that we have a draft this year for a number of reasons, but I think the league will get around to that once they get some of these other more immediate items off their plate.”
On how the Orioles prepare players on hiatus:
“I think the part about it that’s unprecedented is the unknown of the resumption date and if we knew it, we wouldn’t have to hedge against something that’s going to be maybe shorter than expected or longer than expected or worse, and because of that, it’s uncharted waters. And particularly with pitchers, our pitching experts and our training staff and our strength and conditioning staff have been talking since this started and formulating very specific plans and protocols. But we’ve also got to be mindful first and foremost of the public health situation that’s going on and the fact that we don’t want our players spending undue time in public or with groups of people until those guidelines change.
“We’re going to do the best we can and I’m sure every team is, too, but this is certainly uncharted waters for baseball and for pitchers in particular.”
On whether the resumption of spring training will take place in Sarasota or Baltimore:
“I don’t know the answer to that. I have no indication of what that period would look like right now.”
On whether teams still can sign international players:
“We just received guidance to cease scouting activities. Thankfully, we weren’t in the process of executing any international agreements right now, so we’re not faced with that question. I do believe that as it looks right now, especially with this freeze, that we will remain dormant when it comes to the 2019 signing period until something changes.
“I do think the league is going to issue some follow-up guidance once they work through these issues where they will lift some of these controls that they have put in place on the scouting community. They just want to stop everything, assess the landscape, figure out what we should be doing by talking to these different scouting directors and general managers and then figuring out the right policy for this period.”
On what he’s been doing during the shutdown:
“Well, this hasn’t been my first conference call of the week. I can tell you that. All of us are on the phone. The services that provide these conference calls, it seems like they’re getting overwhelmed. It’s tough to connect sometimes. We’re just so fortunate that in our business and a period of time like this we have the technology to stay in touch with one another and stay somewhat productive with something that requires the type of communication and logistics that this does.
“It’s just been constant communication with staff, with the leadership team on the business side, the partnership group, everybody. It’s just been on the phone. It’s been pretty crazy.”
“He’s doing really well. His spirits are great. His physical condition is great. He’s been up walking around. He’s out of the hospital and he’s just doing terrific. Things are going well. But obviously it was a major event that he went through and it’s a process and he’s got some more appointments and tests and we’ll update as we go and as best we can. But feel really good about the prognosis and how he came out of surgery and where he is and where he’s going.”
On whether there have been any health concerns in the organization related to coronavirus:
“So far we’ve been lucky and haven’t had any cases or suspected cases attached to the organization. We’re staying on high alert with that and that’s why our medical and training staff is checking in with players and seeing how they feel every day so that if something does arise, we’ll be on top of it and try to get them care and make sure that we can try to assess whether other people might have been involved, as well. But so far we’ve been very lucky.”
On what kind of schedule is most credible:
“As many as we can do, as many as possible. We know that this is going to go into May at a minimum just based on the federal guidelines that have come out. I think commissioner (Rob) Manfred alluded to those, and anything after that, as soon as we can go we all want to go and play baseball. And I think it would mean a lot to the country when we’re back playing baseball, too, so the sooner the better, but I think that we’ll take what we can get, too. We just want to play.”
MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski will pass along comments from senior vice president of community development and communications Jennifer Grondahl related to how the coronavirus has impacted the business side.