Opt-outs are increasing in MLB, but none so far in Baltimore

The number of major league players deciding not to play in the 2020 season is growing. In the last day, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher David Price and Atlanta right-hander Félix Hernández were added to the list. So were Braves coach Eric Young Sr. and Indians bench coach Brad Mills. Earlier, Ryan Zimmerman, Welington Castillo, Ian Desmond and Mike Leake were among the players that opted out.

San Francisco Giants star catcher Buster Posey said he had some reservations about playing this year. He added he wanted to see how things progress over the next few weeks. Washington closer Sean Doolittle said he’s leaning toward playing, but is not ready to commit to the entire season yet.

“I think I’m planning on playing,” Doolittle told reporters. “But at any point, if I start to feel unsafe, if it starts to take a toll on my mental health, with all the things we have to think about and this cloud of uncertainty hanging over everything, then I’ll opt out.”

Another player whose participation this season is in doubt is three-time American League MVP Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels. His wife is expecting their first baby next month.

“I love baseball, but I have to do what’s right for my family,’’ said Trout, who has been wearing a mask during workouts. “It’s going to come down to how safe we’re going to be. If there’s an outbreak, you definitely have to reconsider. It takes one guy to bring that into the clubhouse, and you know how contagious this virus is. It’s going to be tough to contain.”

You have to wonder if any Orioles players feel this way. Right now, there is no clubhouse access for reporters to ask around, but the few O’s players we’ve heard from during Zoom press conferences have expressed little trepidation about playing. They’ve said they are confident in the protocols in place and would try to police each other to keep everyone safe on the team.

During his latest interview session Sunday I asked O’s manager Brandon Hyde if opt-outs are mostly something just to be expected in this strange 2020 season and if it might impact his team at some point.

Hyde-Observing-Dugout-White-Cap-Sidebar.jpg“I think anything can happen,” said Hyde. “It’s 2020. Anything can happen right now. I don’t blame or fault the guys that are deciding not to play. That’s your own personal choice. That is a personal decision and if one of our guys decides that they don’t feel comfortable being in this environment, then I am in full support. Everybody has their own reasons.

“I’m hoping that we are building a clubhouse and a culture here of guys having their own free thoughts and choices. And this is a choice that they’re going to have not only my backing but the organization’s backing if somebody decides for whatever (reason) that they don’t feel comfortable playing.”

Chemistry class: The Orioles may be a team that didn’t feature a lot of wins last year, but they did score high in team chemistry according to players. Even as losses mounted last year, the Orioles clubhouse was clearly a welcoming place for all players no matter their background or experience level.

Players told us during spring training in Florida that aspect of the club was still strong. Players enjoyed being around their teammates and lingering in the clubhouse to be with the group was something players did.

But how do you keep that going when players workouts are staggered and players are using multiple clubhouses? Right now, O’s pitchers locker near other pitchers, while position players are in another clubhouse.

“It is odd,” said Hyde. “It’s tough to build chemistry when you are so spread out and in different clubhouses. The camaraderie part of this. I think the intrasquads will really help. And we’re going to do some fun competition stuff during that time.

“But I think our guys are doing a pretty good job of intermingling safely. Our guys have used an app this whole time where they are talking constantly in a group chat. Some of the guys have told me they feel it’s brought the club even closer together. So even though we are not all on the field at the same time or in the same clubhouse, we’re going to do the best we can to keep that chemistry and camaraderie we had going into spring training. As well as the culture we started last year I felt like was a real positive part of our season.”

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