By STEVEN WINE
MIAMI (AP) — Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke with union leader Tony Clark on Friday about the importance of players following the league’s coronavirus protocols, according to a person familiar with the conversation.
Manfred and Clark also talked about what needs to be done to finish the season, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
The conversation between Manfred and Clark, which was first reported by ESPN, comes amid growing concern about baseball’s ability to keep playing in the middle of a pandemic.
Six major league teams were idle Friday because of the coronavirus, with a Cardinals-Brewers game the latest to be postponed as a spread of infection threatened to overtake efforts to play ball.
Milwaukee’s home opener was called off hours before the first pitch after two St. Louis players tested positive for COVID-19.
“TV Show suggestions please,” tweeted Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty, one of an increasing number of players who found themselves with unexpected free time as the postponements mounted.
The Cardinals said in a statement they learned Thursday night about positive tests from samples collected Wednesday. Players and staff were instructed to isolate in their hotel rooms.
“The team is currently conducting rapid testing of the entire traveling party, has implemented contact tracing, and will continue to self-isolate,” the Cardinals said.
The Cardinals and Brewers still hoped to play Saturday night, and to make up Friday’s game with a pair of seven-inning games Sunday under a newly approved MLB plan for doubleheaders.
Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio shrugged off the setbacks and said baseball is braced for curveballs, especially this year.
“We’re all committed, I believe – and I’ve talked to a number of players today – to finishing the season,” Attanasio said. “Insofar as we can continue to provide some enjoyment for our fans, I think that’s something we’re all committed to doing. … If we’re not smart and safe, then we’ll fail. But we’re doing everything we can not to fail.’
Two weekend series — Nationals at Marlins, and Blue Jays at Phillies — were called off earlier. The Marlins were hit with a virus outbreak in Philadelphia that infected 20 members of their traveling party, and both Miami and the Phillies are sidelined for at least a week.
The schedules of the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles have also been scrambled a week into a season that had already been delayed and curtailed because of the pandemic, and now may be in jeopardy.
“That’s a concern of mine,” said Colorado Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon, who was out with the virus earlier. “I speak for the entire Rockies team — we want to go out and play. … Anything that pops up negatively, in terms of this virus situation, could hinder that. So yeah, I’m concerned. I would rather not see any more positive cases.”
The six idled teams Friday represented 20 percent of MLB.
“I don’t think there’s a person that thought that this would be seamless,” Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said. “We are being as safe as we possibly can, but we also understand that this virus is very strong and doesn’t have borders.”
The Marlins received another positive test result, and 18 of their players and two staff members have been infected, a person familiar with the situation said.
The person, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made, said none of the Marlins has shown serious symptoms. But officials were concerned that the latest positive test result came five days after the team was last together and played its most recent game.
The person said the infected Marlins left Philadelphia in sleeper buses Friday for an 18-hour trip to Miami, where they will remain together in quarantine.
The rest of the team will spend the weekend in isolation in Philadelphia, where the Marlins have been stranded since their outbreak began. It’s uncertain when or where they will next play.
The Phillies have also been idle since Sunday. One Phils coach and two clubhouse workers tested positive this week, but the team received no positive results Friday.
AP Sports Writers Jay Cohen in Chicago, Pat Graham in Denver, Ian Harrison in Toronto, Steve Megargee in Milwaukee and Jake Seiner in New York, and AP Baseball Writer Ben Walker in New York contributed to this report.
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