The 2020 Major League Baseball season promises to be unlike any other season in baseball history. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the season to be reduced to 60 games, so it'll be a sprint rather than a marathon, and the National League will use the designated hitter as well. Bring on the weird, I say.
MLB and the MLBPA agreed to more than 100 pages of health protocols to ensure baseball can be played safely this season, but their agreement does not require players to wear masks on the field. Phillies shortstop Didi Gregorius plans to wear one anyway. He said so during a recent conference call, and revealed he has a chronic kidney condition that makes him a high-risk individual.
"It will be there for life," Gregorius said. "I had a really good conversation with the [Phillies'] doctors here. They ask me every day what they can do to make it better for me, so there has been really good communication. We are trying to go through the guidelines and trying to do everything we can do to stay safe. So that's why people see me walking around with a mask on and stuff. I am keeping myself safe, wearing a mask everywhere I go. I've got to keep it on me all the time."
"This (mask) is pretty good. It has a built-in filter and everything in it, so it feels good for me. I think wearing it will be normal for me. I am playing in it right now so I can get accustomed to it."
Sir Didi's condition dates back to 2011, when a routine physical discovered elevated protein levels, among other things. His levels were so high that MLB tested him for performance-enhancing drugs, according to Zolecki. Gregorius said his kidney "doesn't work 100 percent every time," and he would "prefer for everybody" to wear a mask, but he can't force anyone to do it.
As a high-risk individual, Gregorius could have opted out of the 2020 season and still received full salary and service time. He signed a one-year deal worth $14 million with Philadelphia over the winter and he'll make about $5.2 million prorated during the 60-game season. Gregorius said he never seriously considered opting out despite his condition.
Last season Gregorius, now 30, authored a .238/.276/.441 batting line in 82 games with the Yankees after returning from Tommy John surgery in June. Prior to the pandemic, he was hoping to rebuild his stock this year and get a multi-year contract this winter. That's one reason he didn't opt out. He wouldn't be able to show teams he's back to his pre-2019 form while sitting at home.
Several other players have worn masks on the field during summer camp, including Clint Frazier, Yuli Gurriel, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Mike Trout. It's unclear whether any will wear a mask during the regular season, however. "I want to make sure that I'm not the reason why it spreads to anybody," Frazier said during a recent conference call.