- The Washington Times
Monday, March 30, 2020

The Washington Nationals have closed their spring training facility in West Palm Beach, Florida, to the players and staff remaining in town as Palm Beach County converts it into a coronavirus testing site.

General manager Mike Rizzo told reporters Monday that a “handful” of players were still using the facility to rehab injuries after Major League Baseball suspended the beginning of its season earlier this month.

Last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered all non-essential businesses in Palm Beach County to be closed, and the Nationals’ and Houston Astros’ facility, FITTEAM Ballpark of The Palm Beaches, was determined to be non-essential. Rizzo said that as part of the team’s contract with the facility, the county has the right to use a portion of the facility for emergency purposes.

“The location that’s being utilized is far removed from all human contact that would be with players, but we thought that in an abundance of safety and precaution, we decided to just lock down the facility even for the players that were in rehabilitation mode,” Rizzo said.

Additionally, for “several” minor-league players for whom it was deemed unsafe to return to their home countries, the Nationals continue to put them up in a hotel in West Palm Beach.

But the Nationals and the NHL’s Washington Capitals do not have any players who have shown symptoms of COVID-19, according to their respective general managers.

“We’ve had no symptoms, no sickness complaints and we’re pretty much daily checking in with players to see if they’re exhibiting any,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said on a conference call.

For the Capitals, nine players have left the Washington region to return to their offseason homes while the other 14 have remained in the area, MacLellan said.

With the immediate future uncertain, athletes from both sports are doing what they can to stay in shape during the hiatus.

“Oftentimes the lucky ones have facilities at their homes that they can work out diligently,” Rizzo said. “Some don’t. Some players are capable of getting their throwing program in easier than others. But believe me, we’re finding ways and players are finding ways to keep themselves and be ready to ramp up when the need arises.”

And when will that be? Rizzo wouldn’t weigh in on the current proposals floating about, which include playing into the winter at warm-weather or domed neutral sites and finishing the World Series around Christmas.

“As the commissioner said, we’re gonna need to get creative,” Rizzo said. “But beyond that, we’re just speculating on all these things and I don’t think it’s the right thing to do for us as individual teams. These are industry-wide concepts.”

In hockey, meanwhile, the NHL was just weeks away from concluding its regular season. MacLellan said he would consider it fair to wrap up the regular season with every team having played the same number of games, including a balance of home and away if possible. He said a postseason stretching into August is definitely on the table.

“There’s no set answer to it because I don’t know how much time we’re going to have,” he said. “Depending on that time frame and if that’s even legitimate at the time, you would have to set your schedule there. So could you shorten a series? Could you shorten the end of the schedule? I think all those options are on the table, and I think it’s just how the virus plays out and how we handle it and how much time we would have to get a season in, if we could get a season in at the end.”

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