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Williams says Reds plans uncertain

Jim Walker

GOODYEAR, AZ — It’s a matter of playing it by ear.
With everything in the sports world still in a state of confusion, Major League Baseball is still not certain about its plan going forward because it the coronavirus circumstances are constantly changing.
For now, Cincinnati Reds’ general manager Dick Williams talked about what the team’s players, coaches and front office personnel will be doing in the immediate future.
Williams gave an update over the weekend.
“There’s still more information to come. I know MLB and the players’ union are holding meetings to discuss the logistical challenges that have arisen because of the delay of the start of the season,” said Williams.
“I believe that we will have more information in the coming days. They did inform us of the plan to encourage teams to shut down their spring training for now and their facilities and give the players the option to do what they thought was best for their health, for their families. So, we spent (Friday) communicating that out to our organization.
“We communicated that to our major league players and staff without them to physically having to report to the complex and in the course of the day get a very good handle on every one of our players and staff and their plans.”
While most of the focus is on the major league teams, Williams said they are not neglecting the minor league players who far outnumber the big league roster that includes many players from foreign countries.
“With our minor league players, we physically brought them to the complex and go through a process with them to make sure all the logistics are explained to them. Obviously, there’s a higher percentage of international players there than in our major league camps so we’re going through every individual player and staff member their options and helping them with travel. That’s been the focus here,” said Williams.
“Out of the major league camp, I can report that there’s a good mix of players electing the different options. I would say that not everybody has chosen the one option and that’s the only option. In other words, some players have said I’d like to stay for a while and see how it goes, some have said I’m going to go home but I don’t know how long I’ll stay there. I may come back. There will be a lot of people playing it by ear as you could imagine.
“Right now, less than half of our players are going to remain in Arizona right now. I’m referring to our big league camp. And probably a little more than half are going to go home, but that’s a point in time decision. It doesn’t mean they have to stick with that decision indefinitely. Same thing with staff. We have some staff members who are going to remain here. Obviously, we have some staff members who live here year-round already.”
Major League Baseball will allow players to work out on their own, but the complexes are closed to the public and banned from full team workouts. Williams said players are making varied decisions about handling the down time.
“Our plan over the next few days will really be closed except for the process of helping minor league players understand and make their next move, their travel logistics. We don’t expect any big league activity at least through the weekend,” said Williams.
“Beginning (Monday) we will have the facility available to those big league players. Don’t anticipate structured workouts, group workouts, anything like that. It’ll be available for the guys to stop in. We haven’t decided yet a staffing schedule but we anticipate a window where we’ll be open during the course of the day as opposed to all day. We’ll probably be rotating staff coverage just to make sure there are people here when (the players) are here.”
Speaking of staff, Williams said front office personnel are in the process of returning to Cincinnati and Great American Ball Park.
“A lot of them left in the last couple of days. There are a handful of us who will be here at least into the first part of next week. We just make sure everything is going smoothly and then we’ll probably wind down our front office presence here for a period of time,” said Williams.
Minor league players have options to stay but are encouraged to go home because their season is behind the major league season and will have a long stoppage. Williams said the team expects a large number to leave.
“We have a minor league presence here pretty much year-round. They’ll continue to receiver their perdium,” said Williams.
The Reds’ plan is in line with the MLB guidelines and he doesn’t expect a lot of big league players to remain and those who do stay will have limited workouts.
“MLB is going to put out a memo covering this next period. I know the intent was to close most complexes to the public. There won’t be much to see. If you have 15 to 20 players in Arizona, I don’t know how many will be here at a given the time. I’m talking about a guy coming in and doing his lifting on his own or maybe he comes in with a buddy and they play catch.
“I don’t see us doing anything much in the way of ground balls or fly balls or anything on the field for a period of time,” said Williams.
“Our coaching staff is going to discuss that. Obviously, this is new. We had players ramping up and now we’ve got a known down time followed by an unknown ramp back up period. So, there’s going to be a lot of discussion about the best way to maintain the players’ condition and balance that over work load. I don’t have any specific direction as to how much activity or how little, but I would expect that it would be very little for at least a period of weeks.”
With the start of the regular season remains uncertain, so does the timetable for when players can begin workouts back in Arizona or when they shift to Cincinnati.
“That hasn’t been determined by MLB. Our understanding is there is going to be a period of down time and they are going to closely monitor the situation, the health situation, and when they decide on a time where they can start the season back up, they’re going to build in a multi-week time for preparation and it’s my understanding that it is most likely to be back out here (Arizona), for all teams back at their spring training facilities. But that has not been committed to,” said Williams.
Newly-signed outfielder Shogo Akiyama is the first player from Japan who is in the Reds’ organization. Williams said Akiyama’s plans are still up in the air.
“His family has traveled to Cincinnati. He’s considering a whole host of options. Japan is also a place he could consider on his options,” said Williams.
“If you travel internationally, there are a lot of considerations that have to come into play. I won’t speak for him on his final decision is, but I know he’s considering different options.”