Baseball scrambles back into action amid lingering concerns

FILE - In this Feb. 6, 2020, file photo, Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred answers questions at a press conference during baseball owners meetings in Orlando, Fla. Manfred tells The Associated Press that the commissioner's office, teams and the players' association "owe it to our fans to be better than we've been the last three months." (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 6, 2020, file photo, Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred answers questions at a press conference during baseball owners meetings in Orlando, Fla. Manfred tells The Associated Press that the commissioner's office, teams and the players' association "owe it to our fans to be better than we've been the last three months." (AP Photo/John Raoux, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Ron Gardenhire and Dusty Baker are a little uneasy. Jim Crane hopes his Houston Astros can play in front of fans at some point.

As baseball scrambles to start an abbreviated season, the prevailing mood is one of nervous excitement.

“Is it a risk? Absolutely,” said Gardenhire, the 62-year-old manager of the Detroit Tigers. "There’s risk involved in this. We all know it, and we’re willing to go try to do this thing. I would never want to jump ship with my team, but we’re going to hopefully do everything right as far as protocol goes, and take care of each other and keep everybody healthy as best we possibly can.”

Major League Baseball set a 60-game schedule Tuesday night, and now the sport will try its best to complete a season and crown a champion amid a coronavirus pandemic that still looms over much of American life. Players report to camps July 1 — hard to call it “spring training” at this time of year — and the regular season is supposed to start about three weeks later.

It already feels like a whirlwind.

“We knew this was a possibility so I think everybody is kind of ahead of where they normally would be for traditional spring training,” Minnesota Twins reliever Taylor Rogers said. “I don’t know if I can speak for everybody because it’s easier for the relievers. I don’t know how the starters are going to get ready or stretched out. And then the hitters, that’s a whole different ballgame. I’m sure it’s going to be difficult for them early. They haven’t seen live pitching in three months now.”

Aside from the accelerated timeline, other logistical issues could arise as teams figure out how to turn their home ballparks into training camps following an uptick in infections in Florida and Arizona. The Tigers announced Wednesday they would use Comerica Park in Detroit, which obviously has less field space than the team's sprawling spring training complex in Florida. General manager Al Avila said players would have their time on the field staggered.

The Texas Rangers, who still haven’t played a game in their new retractable roof stadium, plan to use the home, visitor and auxiliary clubhouses to spread out players and staff. The team also has access to its former stadium across the street, even though the field was converted for the XFL and soccer.