The Dodgers have been, for the most part, together as a team in Los Angeles for over three weeks. But that all changes Monday, when they fly to Houston, where they’ll start a nine-game, three-city road trip that will also take them to Phoenix and San Diego.
It will be unlike any road trip they’ve had in recent memory.
There is social distancing at all times while traveling, such that the Dodgers will likely have up to four buses available to take the team to and from the airport, hotel, and ballpark. Outside of that, players are for the most part confined to the hotel.
MLB’s operations manual encourages the use of room service in the hotel, or a food delivery service like Postmates or Uber Eats. But essentially, avoid interacting with potentially large groups of people. More from the operations manual:
The Traveling Party is not permitted to leave the hotel to eat or otherwise use any restaurants (in the hotel or otherwise) open to the public. Clubs should consider providing “welcome amenities” and/or utilizing private on-site vendors at hotels to provide food and drink(s) in the rooms upon arrival in order to minimize trips to convenience stores or public markets.
Several Dodgers players have talked about the importance of keeping with the protocols in order to help prevent a potential coronavirus outbreak, and holding each other accountable.
“We’ve talked about certain things,” catcher Will Smith said Sunday. “There’s not written down rules, I guess. But we’ve talked about them and everyone’s kind of following them and doing their part, to keep us all safe.”
Manager Dave Roberts said he’s talked to some players about the importance of following the protocols, but added that in many cases the message is more effective when coming from a teammate.
Smith mentioned several players playing video games to pass the time, though don’t expect Roberts to join in on a Call of Duty session.
“The last gaming station I had was I think a Nintendo or Playstation, and they don’t make those anymore,” Roberts said Sunday. “I think for me, it’s just I’m going to try to binge shows. Obviously once I get into the mind of baseball, there’s gonna be a lot of time at the hotel.”
The final leg of the road trip is at Petco Park in San Diego, about a half hour from his home. He plans to have coaches over to the house for meetings, socially distanced of course, during that series against the Padres.
“We have talked about the fact that you’ve got to win on the field, but also, winning off the field is going to be important too for each team,” Roberts said. “Staying safe and trying to win the battle of attrition in 2020 is going to be beneficial as well.”
Teams can take a taxi squad of up to three players with them on road trips, to help facilitate the need to call somebody up if needed. Roberts said Sunday that Zach McKinstry, who started at five positions last year in Triple-A, will be one of the players on the taxi squad for this trip.
One of the three taxi squad players must be a catcher, which will either be Rocky Gale, who isn’t on the 40-man roster, or Keibert Ruiz, who is, but who also didn’t report to summer camp until the final weekend. The other player on the taxi squad will be an extra relief pitcher. Available pitching options on the 40-man roster include Josh Sborz, Victor Gonzalez, Tony Gonsolin, and Mitchell White.
While on the taxi squad, players don’t get major league service time, and they get paid at their minor league rate, but they also receive the major league per diem of $108.50 for every day of the trip. They are allowed to workout with the team before the game, but the two non-catchers are not allowed in the dugout or bullpen areas during the game. The taxi squad catcher can be a bullpen catcher.