The No. 1 thing Dick Williams knows about the next step for Major League Baseball this season is what isn’t happening.
Baseball will not be back in the middle of April as initially hoped when spring training was suspended last week in an effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
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“It’s premature to say we’re targeting a date,” the Reds president of baseball operations said on the Reds Hot Stove show on the Reds Radio Network on Wednesday night.
“I don’t see us cranking that up until we get very comfortable that things are moving in a very positive direction, and that is a decision that will be made above my pay grade,” Williams said. “But I do know that when we get going, the goal is let’s play as many games as we can play. Baseball season is known for its length. Part of the grind is identifying the best clubs, and baseball played over a very short period of time is less predictable so we all want to play as many regular season games as possible. And I think it’s likely we would get creative on the back end to try to extend the season, do whatever we could do to play as many games as possible.”
He stressed nothing should be ruled out at this point.
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When and if baseball returns in 2020, it could look much different than usual — more doubleheaders, expanded rosters and rotations with more than five starters are all possible.
Whatever happens, Williams expects the first step to some type of truncated spring training, most likely held in Arizona in the Reds’ case.
In the meantime, the coaching and medical staffs have prepared individual workout plans for every member of the organization.
“We’ve got the healthy players in one bucket and the rehab players in another bucket,” he said. “We don’t want them to go home and lock themselves in the house. We need to give them tools to get ready, so we’re individualizing those workloads and we are aggressively deploying an in-home workout kit that will be tailored for each player, a way for them to kind of create their own home gym whether they have one or not.”
Williams also offered some more details about a club employee who is based in Arizona testing positive for the coronavirus this week.
“I had a good conversation with that employee this afternoon,” Williams said. “They were experiencing symptoms over the weekend and went and got checked. Initially they were not going to be tested for coronavirus. They tested negative for the flu and strep. Symptoms were very mild, but because of the nature of the job, and the exposure to a lot of players from international locations, we decided to go ahead and do a test.”
The employee has been quarantined and was feeling better by Wednesday afternoon, Williams said.
“I’m so proud of our organization and how proactive the baseball and business side have been throughout this situation, but we’re being as careful as we can,” he said. “Stressful times tend to focus the mind and get us to pay attention to what’s important. And I hope all of us have a healthy amount of stress right now and are focusing that towards health, our personal situations and in terms of not letting this spread any further.
“We’re used to a little bit of stress. We had a lot of stress this offseason and it helped us focus our mind and get to where we’re going. We just don’t want that to flip over into panic where your judgment gets clouded. We’re thinking of it as a healthy stress and it’s driving us to be the best we can.”
As for getting back to baseball, Williams suggested the club feels it has put together a staff with a creative way of doing things, and that will give them a competitive edge when the games are ready to resume.
“We definitely want the players to be healthy, but if the layoff is too long we don’t want them to be in peak shape,” he said. “But as soon as you tell them to back down and then it cranks up, that’s another risk, so we’ll be putting our heads together on what is the best way to thread the needle.”