The buzzer will be a constant feature in Kansas City Royals spring training this year. Everyone must answer to it and abide by it, including the skipper himself.
Before pitchers and catchers held their first official workout, which included more than 20 bullpen sessions, Royals second-year manager Mike Matheny gathered the coaching staff to talk through expectations for how camp will run.
Then the timer Matheny set went off, marking 15 minutes of being in close quarters.
“I’m right in the middle of conversation and then we just — we break,” Matheny said. “We go reset, and come back. Fifteen minutes Cheap Kansas City Royals Jerseys goes fast, so it was clunky and awkward but it was more making a point that we’ll do whatever we have to do.”
MLB will play a full season, but the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t completely in the rearview mirror. The Royals opened spring training for 36 pitchers and seven catchers on Wednesday, and they expect to have 71 players in camp next week in Surprise, Arizona.
The Royals will not overlook the potential havoc of a COVID-19 outbreak during camp.
Last summer, the Royals announced eight positive tests from intake testing at the start of Spring Training 2.0 in Kansas City through the start of the 2020 regular season.
At one point during camp, they didn’t have a single catcher on their 40-man roster active for drills.
Last summer’s roster strain came entirely from positive test results. None were sidelined because they were in close contact with a player or staff member who has tested positive.
However, contact with infected individuals will be closely monitored this year.
“How can we eliminate the odds of contact tracing,” Matheny said of his aim.
Last week, MLB announced its health and safety protocols for this year. Kinexon contact tracing devices will be worn by team personnel in club facilities, during club-directed travel, and while engaged in team activities.
After everyone has cleared intake testing — they must quarantine at home for five days prior to spring training — testing will continue every other day during camp.
The first full-squad work will take place on Monday.
Matheny said pitchers Asa Lacy, Josh Staumont, Carlos Sanabria and Andres Sotillet will have a delayed start to spring training. Daniel Tillo is listed on the spring training roster, but he’ll be rehabbing (Tommy John surgery).
STEPS BEING TAKEN
Position players, who have shown up early voluntarily, work out at the complex early in the day and clear out before most of the pitchers and catchers arrive.
While the minor league players won’t begin camp until later, the Royals are using the minor-league side of the facility to socially distance players.
They had a similar setup during Spring Training 2.0 at Kauffman Stadium last summer. At that time, they used the home and visiting clubhouses to accommodate Royals players.
Now at the Arizona complex, the players with the most major-league service time will have lockers in the major-league clubhouse while others will have lockers on the minor-league side.
They’re also using two different training rooms, two equipment rooms, and most of their weight room now resides outdoors.
The doors to the facility are open to allow for air flow, food is portioned and packaged for grab and go as opposed to buffet style.
Players will receive constant reminders to space out during drills, and every drill will last 15 minutes or fewer.
The coaches room now has marks on the tables to notify staff members when they’re at a safe distance from one another. Masks are being worn inside and outside by coaches, Matheny said.
“It’s good,” Mathney said of all the measures in place. “They’ve thought this through, and I think it’s going to give us our best chance.”