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MLB players, teams share concerns over safety & testing protocols

Daily testing among suggested changes by multiple parties

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MLB: NLCS-Workouts Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The MLB proposal for safety and testing protocols for a return of baseball during the coronavirus pandemic was as massive as it was malleable. As expected, players and teams have expressed concerns with various aspects of the plan.

Though 67 pages long, the safety protocols were just a proposal, meant to be discussed. Deputy commissioner Dan Halem said last week, “We emphasize that this is a first draft, and will undergo several rounds of changes as we collect comments and suggestions from the clubs, the players’ association, players, and government officials,” per the Associated Press.

Accordingly, more than 130 players participated in a union conference call with executive director Tony Clark on Monday to discuss the proposal, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

All 30 clubs have reviewed the proposal, too. One of the main concerns is that testing is too light. The protocol called for temperature checks twice a day for everyone at the ballpark, and testing a few times per week.

“I don’t see us playing without testing every day,” Angels star Mike Trout told ESPN.

Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic outlined some changes proposed by five team executives, which included increased testing. He also outlined the issues why that might not happen:

Daily testing, however, might not be available by early July, when MLB intends to begin play. The potential drain on public resources is a sensitive topic, and the league is trying to avoid criticism by paying to produce its own tests through the conversion of a lab in Utah it previously used for minor-league drug testing. The league also promises to add to the public supply by making testing available to healthcare workers and first-responders in each home city.

“The daily testing, I’m a fan of, to quickly determine our status every day,” Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong told Jesse Rogers at ESPN. “But given that, I’d like to see the freedom operating in the clubhouse and on the field.”

Another concern from several parties is the removal of some of the ancillary habits and rituals surrounding the sport, like cutting out spitting and sunflower seeds, plus asking players not to shower at the ballpark. Those may seem small, but the original draft of the protocols also included a ban on saunas, steam rooms, and cryotherapy chambers.

“Not having hot and cold therapy will be a problem for players,” an executive told Rosenthal. “It’s such an important part of their maintenance routine.”

“Not getting to use any of the facilities that help recover our bodies is going to be a problem,” Marlins reliever Brandon Kintzler told Rogers.

So expect some changes, perhaps several changes, to these protocols before they are approved by all sides, as well as the various governing bodies and health officials who review them.