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Dodgers open to conversations surrounding coronavirus risk, opting out

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“Any individual person’s thoughts or concerns, we want to hear them. We’ll support anything they choose,” manager Dave Roberts says

Los Angeles Dodgers v. Washington Nationals Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

Players and coaches will begin reporting to training camp* next week, but it’s important to realize that nothing about this season will be normal.

*Going to use this for now, since it’s not spring anymore. Suggestions are welcome.

Over a third of Major League Baseball teams have had people in the organization test positive for coronavirus recently, including the Dodgers. More positive tests are sure to come over the next week with intake screening of well over 1,000 players, coaches and related personnel who will be involved in spring training.

Anyone can choose to opt out of this season, if they feel the risk is too high either for themselves or those around them. Dodgers reliever Scott Alexander, a Type 1 diabetic, talked to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times about this in May:

“I’m continuing to stay in contact with our medical staff and to stay on top of it. If the doctors were to tell me at some point that I was definitively at a high risk and it could be fatal if I were to contract the coronavirus because I have Type 1 diabetes, then I would have to seriously consider not playing.”

Dave Roberts, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2010, said he feels comfortable managing this season after talking with his doctor as well as Dodgers head athletic trainer Neil Rampe.

“The word I got was that as a former cancer survivor, I’m not at any higher risk than anyone else,” Roberts said Thursday. “Knowing my history, I’m still very aware of it, but I feel confident going back.”

Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman in a diary for the Associated Press said he’s still undecided on whether to play in 2020. “I have a three-week-old baby. My mother has multiple sclerosis and is super high-risk,” he said, “If I end up playing, I can pretty much throw out the idea of seeing her until weeks after the season is over.”

Players and coaches can opt out at any time during the season. Players who opt out would be placed on the COVID-19 related injured list, which doesn’t count against the active or 40-man rosters. Players deemed high risk would receive pay and service time while sitting out. For employees who opt out, there isn’t an official policy for getting paid, though Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic reported this would be handled on a team-by-team basis.

Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Thursday he’d welcome any conversations with anyone about the risks involved with playing in a pandemic.

“This is a very personal decision and matter. We want people to feel comfortable to bring up if they’re concerned, scared, or whatever the case may be. We want to have those conversations with staff, with players,” Friedman said. “We’ve definitely had a few conversations with a few players who are concerned, not necessarily rising to the level of opting out.”

“Any individual person’s thoughts or concerns, we want to hear them,” Roberts added. “We’ll support anything they choose.”