It appears the New York Yankees will be returning to George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida in the next two weeks to resume where they left off in spring training, some players are already there, and some may show up as soon as this weekend. But what will the Yankees face upon their return?
A restart to training
Back in March, when MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred abruptly halted spring training, the Yankees were just getting into gameplay. When it became evident that the season would not be starting anytime soon, due to the coronavirus, many players left the area and headed home. About a half dozen players remained at the facility or in the area.
Now that a second spring training appears likely Yankees from all over the country will again convene in sunny Florida to resume what they started nearly two months ago. How long that spring training will last, depends upon the start of the regular season which, will be decided upon by MLB and health officials, but most sources agree it will not be until late June or July 4th at the latest. That will give the Yankees another four or five weeks to sharpen up for the new shortened season.
Most New York Yankee players have tried to stay in form by various methods, some in their own gyms or commercial gyms that have allowed them to work out solo. Pitching coach Matt Blake has let veteran pitchers handle their own programs but has remained close to the other newer pitchers taking an active hand in how they go about staying ready, from his home in Ohio. And yet some players remained close to the complex in Tampa and have used that facility to stay ready.
The Injury front
Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez have remained at the Florida complex to continue rehabbing from injuries. Luis Severino returned their a few weeks after his Tommy John surgery to start the rehab program that will keep him off the mound throughout the 2020 season. James Paxton, who had back surgery before the start of spring training, is rehabbing at his home outside of Seattle. And although Domingo German is not injured he is suspended for the first 60 games of when a season starts.
Giancarlo Stanton is recovering from an ornery grade one calf strain. Gary Sanchez has been recovering from a sore back. The time-delayed season has allowed them to fully recover and be ready for the start of spring training 2.0. James Paxton’s recovery from back surgery has gone better than expected, and although he may not be ready to pitch in spring training, it is assumed that he will be ready for a regular-season start.
The Aaron Judge situation is a bit less clear. Back at the end of last season, the New York Yankees star suffered a broken rib and a partially collapsed lung that was not fully diagnosed until spring training and did not allow him to play in any spring training games. The collapsed lung has resolved itself, and the delayed start of the season has allowed him to continue to heal from the fracture. But, as late as earlier this week, Yankee manager Aaron Judge has not been able to say he will be ready to play at the beginning of the season.
What environmental factors will affect Flordia games?
The Tampa, Florida area is and was less affected by the coronavirus than other areas of the country, especially the New York City area that was and still is the epicenter for the virus. Florida has allowed restaurants to reopen as long as they keep at 50% capacity, businesses can operate as long as they adhere to social distancing. Gyms and fitness centers can operate under the same guidelines.
Phase two of Florida’s re-opening plan will take place tomorrow as long as there is no evidence of a rebound or resurgence of COVID-19 cases and satisfies the benchmarks outlined in this Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step.plan, which to date seems to be a go. Phase two will allow George. M. Steinbrenner Field to open with fans in the stands. The Florida directive states the venues of large spectator sporting events shall be at only 50% of capacity while maintaining social distance. This would mean for the Stadium to comply; it should limit fans to about 25% or about 2,500 fans.
There will also be other changes imposed by the Yankees or MLB itself. Players may be banned from the dugout and be relegated to sitting in the stands while maintaining distance. They might also be required to wear masks. The media will be severely limited and will not be allowed into the clubhouse, and will only be allowed to interview players and coaches at a distance. The Yankees will make every effort to make sure players, stadium workers, and fans alike are as safe as possible.