MINNEAPOLIS -- On the same day Major League Baseball released its schedule for its truncated 60-game season, multiple teams were forced to cancel their summer training camp as a result of COVID-19 testing delays, leading some to question the viability of the system.
The testing system put into place in an effort to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 throughout clubhouses across the country essentially failed one of its first tests, as multiple teams were left waiting extra time for their results. Teams are supposed to be tested every other day and receive their results within 24 to 48 hours. The Twins, so far, have not had any problems with the system, manager Rocco Baldelli said on Monday.
“It’s very, very challenging to keep track of, organize, coordinate, make sure it happens, because there’s a lot of different people, from top to bottom, many different tiers, that are all on different schedules, that have made it work and made it work really well,” Baldelli said. “… We’ve tried to probably even to the point where we’re being pains, but trying to make sure we’re on top of it with guys coming in, with the people coming in testing us. We’re kind of learning all this on the go.”
Though Baldelli couldn’t pinpoint exactly how long it had taken to get results, he said the first round of testing had come back exactly when they “would have hoped.” Closer Taylor Rogers also said he hadn’t seen any complications yet with the testing process on his end.
But six different teams reportedly had problems with the testing, including the Astros, who canceled practice. Houston catcher Martin Maldonado tweeted that he was getting tested again on Monday but had yet to see his results from his Friday test.
MLB, which is using a lab in Utah to process its tests, cited the Fourth of July weekend as the reason for the breakdown in test results in a release sent Monday afternoon.
“Unfortunately, several situations included unforeseen delays,” the release said. “We have addressed the delays caused by the holiday weekend and do not expect a recurrence. We commend the affected Clubs that responded properly by cancelling workouts.”
But the delays highlight the fragility of the situation, where players are being asked to put their health and safety at risk to compete this season. The likelihood of an outbreak within a clubhouse goes up without quick test results and Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, whose team was affected by the delays, came down forcefully.
“Without accurate and timely testing it is simply not safe for us to continue with summer camp,” Rizzo said in a release. “Major League Baseball needs to work quickly to resolve issues with their process and their lab. Otherwise, summer camp and the 2020 season are at risk.”
Count Twins catcher Mitch Garver among those who are unsure whether the 60-game season will reach its targeted end date, citing testing flaws and both false positives and false negatives as issues. Garver said 60 games sound good on paper but when you go through it day-by-day, “it gets more difficult to kind of see that, the end of the finish line.”
“It almost feels like you’re waiting on bad news, right? You’re just waiting on somebody’s camp to break out,” Garver said. “You’re waiting for travel restrictions to be shut down across the nation. You’re waiting for a second wave, where things become unplayable and sports take a backseat. We’re all just kind of going day to day right now, making sure that we’re ready for the given day and looking forward to that.”
He said certain teammates have expressed that they do not want to go into the weight room with more than five people in it. As a result, some players, he said, are skipping that and some are “timid to do certain things that go into their normal routines.”
Beyond that, he said there's not enough information about the novel coronavirus to feel safe at this point, as the virus has only been in the United States for a matter of months.
"It feels like a lot of guys are going out there with the idea that they are going to get sick and everything is going to be fine when it’s over, but we don't know. I don't know. I don't think the doctors really know the effects it could have on symptomatic versus asymptomatic people, people with underlying conditions," Garver said. "We don't really know. So it's almost like you can go out there and you roll the dice and see what happens. It would be terrible for something to happen to somebody under these circumstances."