As Major League Baseball reckoned with the possibility of coronavirus outbreaks affecting multiple teams, Angels manager Joe Maddon on Monday refused to panic.
The 66-year-old had noticed many around him discussing the morning’s news that roughly a dozen members of the Miami Marlins had tested positive for the coronavirus and three MLB games had been postponed as a result. Maddon sensed a slightly higher level of apprehension from some but the anxiety didn’t spill over. He said no one approached him privately upon arrival at the Coliseum to discuss the potential of the season being canceled or any coronavirus-related concerns.
Maddon didn’t seem to think anyone would — at least not yet. Little was known about the virus outbreak in the Marlins’ clubhouse before the Angels concluded their four-game series against the Oakland Athletics.
Maddon took some comfort in that.
“I think it’s really important to trace how it occurred,” he said in a videoconference call before the game, which the Athletics won 3-0. “That’s the one thing we need to know first before we jump to a lot of different conclusions. I mean, to me, if there was a breach of protocol by any of those players, then it's more easily explainable. And if not, then it becomes more problematic.
“I don't want to be an alarmist right now. Of course, it is awful that it happened. … To me, it's really important to find out the whys.”
The Angels have seemingly kept the coronavirus at arm’s length.
They started preseason workouts in July without nine players. Patrick Sandoval, Matt Thaiss and Julio Teheran all said upon return they had been infected with COVID-19. The others have since rejoined the team but reasons for their absences were not disclosed. None have spoken with the media since reporting to training camp.
Only one player, Parker Markel, was added to the injured list without explanation after workouts began.
First base and outfielders coach Jesús Feliciano left the team following Saturday’s game. No reason was provided at the time. Maddon simply said Feliciano “had something to attend to” and that Feliciano was “fine.”
Excluding the departures of Feliciano and Markel, nothing has gone awry for the Angels since the beginning of July. Even their first road trip under extreme working conditions went smoothly. They continued to get their saliva tested every other day for the coronavirus. They still wore masks when not participating in physical activities and when away from the ballpark. And they rarely made contact with the outside world.
“Quite frankly, I don’t think anyone wants to go outdoors,” Maddon said. “You drive around here right now, we’re at the [Hotel] Nikko, you can see outside that things are kind of rugged right now, on the rough side. Last night, some young man came up and started beating on our bus door. So it’s not like you want to get out and mingle.”
But missteps could send the extensive health-and-safety structures the players and league created toppling over. It is why Maddon spent training camp preaching the importance of “being the best teammate you’ve ever been.” He has been encouraged by how seriously the players have taken protocols. Players, in turn, have complimented teammates and the staff for adhering to guidelines.
“The guys have been respectful of others,” Mike Trout two days before the start of the season said.“Everyone’s taking responsibility to wear a mask, social distance and be safe.”
Sandoval dealt with a severe case of COVID-19 for about four days at the end of June. He has spoken about his experience with teammates who have asked. At no point has he felt in jeopardy of getting sick again.
No one appeared to shirk his responsibility while on the road. Maddon didn't hear of anyone stepping out of line. Reliever Keynan Middleton’s Twitter account suggests most players had no issues staying indoors.
“If you walk in the hallways you can hear these fools screaming at each other playing video games,” Middleton wrote Sunday night.
— La llave🗝 (@since93key) July 27, 2020
Said Sandoval: “It’s weird. We’ve had three straight day games. We're staying in San Francisco. It's unfortunate we can't go out and explore the city. But it's for the best.”
To encourage responsible behavior, Maddon wants to put some diversions in place for the Angels’ next trip, which is scheduled Aug. 4-9 in Seattle and Arlington, Texas.
“I’ve talked to [traveling secretary] Tom Taylor about after night games getting a larger room that permits guys to gather after the game, where you can drink a beer, whatever, play video games, as a group,” Maddon said. “Maybe that will satiate the desire to go out or go elsewhere.”
1. OHTANI STRUGGLES: One day after failing to record an out in his return to the mound, Shohei Ohtani went hitless in four at-bats. Joe Maddon suspected he was pushing himself to make up for his disastrous pitching appearance. Ohtani opened the season with one hit and four strikeouts in nine at-bats.
2. CANNING’S STUFF: Griffin Canning gave up three runs and four hits but struck out seven in his first MLB outing since elbow inflammation cut short his rookie campaign last August. He drew 16 swings and misses, and received 14 strike calls over 4-2/3 innings.
3. HELP IS ON THE WAY: Along with the addition of Anthony Rendon to the lineup, the Angels expect veteran starter Julio Teheran to join the rotation soon. He should be able to throw more than 55 pitches after his side session Tuesday.