CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Major league owners and players may have been the ones who delayed this season for months, but it's Covid-19 that could truly shut it down, even as it's just finally starting up.
Today, Rockies star Charlie Blackmon became the first known player to test positive for the virus. This, after seven unnamed Phillies players, along with five staff members, tested positive.
Other teams admit they've had players test positive.
All of this is happening as teams prepare to open Spring Training, the Sequel next Wednesday. Where? Even that's unclear.
Several Tribe players have been working out at Progressive Field in anticipation of officially getting back to work. But they could also spread out to local minor league parks.
Other teams are still putting their plans together. But the Rockies, who had two other players test positive as well, have already shut down Coors Field.
One step forward, two steps back.
And while baseball will have its deepest bench this summer ... twenty to thirty players in reserve for this very reason ... it's fair to ask: will the pandemic eventually keep these games from being played?
And if they are played, for how long?
Major League Baseball will enforce new and very noticeable rules, including social distancing. Get within six feet of an umpire to argue, you can be tossed.
And those sunflower seeds spit out throughout the dugout? That's a no-no.
But that won't be Terry Francona's biggest concern. The Tribe's skipper, and future Hall of Famer, is 61 with a history of health issues. THAT is a real concern. Baseball will strictly enforce safety protocols, but you can't ignore this.
“If you look at a lot of managers ... Ron Gardenhire (62, Tigers manager), Terry Francona, who are in that 60-70 age bracket, I think they absolutely are at risk,” longtime Indians beat reporter Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com says, “and they’re putting themselves in a tough situation.”
Astros manager Dusty Baker just turned 71 last week. And he admits, he's nervous.
"I'm a bit nervous, but I should be nervous because this is like Spring Training #2," Baker says. "I've seen the reports in Houston how Covid's going up, so I'm gonna have to really be careful. I have about 100 different masks, I got some gloves, you know, I got sunglasses. I've read all of the reports on what to do, on how to stay good, so in my heart and in my mind I'm in good shape and I'm ready to go."