Major League Baseball is staring at its first major crisis of a season being threatened by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Miami Marlins’ season has been temporarily paused until at least Monday as they remain quarantined in Philadelphia following the latest round of COVID-19 testing. At least 15 players, and two staff members, tested positive during the weekend series at Philadelphia.
On the other side of the continent, where the Rockies played at the Oakland A’s Tuesday night, the shockwave was felt.
“It’s affected the baseball community,” manager Bud Black said. “To see what’s happened to the Marlins, that’s tough news, that’s bad news. Hopefully — with what they are calling a pause, right? — they can bounce back, and some of these tests will come back negative and they can get back on the field.”
Black has repeatedly praised the Rockies’ strict adherence to MLB’s health protocols. He did so again Tuesday.
“It’s been outstanding to watch our players, our coaching staff, our trainers, our strength guys, our baseball operations team, go through this with strict compliance,” he said. “I’m proud of our organization.”
Rockies all-star right fielder Charlie Blackmon, who has recovered from a mild case of COVID-19 in time to play in the first four games of the season, echoed Black’s comments.
“I think the Rockies are working hard to stay safe and ensure we have baseball this summer,” Blackmon said. “I hate to hear about the Marlins’ situation and I hope they call recover safely.”
Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez, who underwent a heart procedure last September, has acknowledged his fear about the virus.
“I’m going to be honest with you, I’m scared. I really am,” Martinez told the media on Monday. “I go from (the ballpark), home, back here every day, that’s all I do. I wash my hands, I went from 47 times a day to probably 99 times a day. Wear my mask everywhere I go. But there’s always that concern, you know.”
Martinez is 55, while Black is 63. A number of the Rockies’ coaches and staff are over 50, including third-base coach Stu Cole (54), first-base coach Ron Gideon (56) and pitching coach Steve Foster (53). Black said that the Rockies’ older coaches are paying close attention to safety protocols.
“We’re watching out for each other,” Black said. “We’re going to continue to go through this with a positive mindset, that we’re going to keep playing, and we’re going keep going, keep moving forward.”
Shaw’s redemption. Right-handed reliever Bryan Shaw, released by the Rockies on July 17, is now pitching for Seattle. He said that his struggles in two seasons with Colorado were due, in part, to an inability to adjust to pitching in Denver’s mile-high altitude.
“I got there and the sliders didn’t work,” he told Seattle media. “It didn’t matter what we did. We tried to tinker with it. We tried to change it. We tried to do different stuff and it just basically fell by the wayside.
“So, basically, I became a cutter-primary (pitcher) with kind of a little cement-mixer slider that didn’t really do anything. I think that attributed a lot to the adverse results that I had. Stemming from that, we tried to do some different things to create that movement on the slider and create different stuff in the mechanical side which then kind of just messed with everything a little bit. It just kind of snowballed there.”
Asked about those comments, Black acknowledged that Shaw didn’t meet expectations in Colorado, but said that Shaw gave it his best shot.
“My initial thought was, Bryan was going to continue to throw how he did in Cleveland,” Black said. “They were outstanding. I thought it was a great fit with us, and there were moments — there were spurts — where Bryan threw the ball great.
“He didn’t lose any velocity, the movement on his pitches were still comparable. He just had, for me, a hard time consistently locating the ball … getting the ball in good spots. But Bryan never wavered in his competitiveness.”
Shaw signed a three-year, $27 million contract prior to the 2018 season. But he posted a 5.61 ERA in two seasons, looking nothing like the pitcher he was in Cleveland, where he’s posted a 3.11 ERA and 8.4 strikeouts per nine innings in 387 appearances over five seasons.
Brothers in arms. Atlanta lefty Tyler Matzek, the Rockies’ first-round pick in 2009, whose career was derailed by a case of the yips, made his first appearance since 2015 in the eighth inning Sunday. He faced four hitters in a scoreless outing.
“It felt great to be back out there,” Matzek said. “It was a moment I had been using as motivation for years.”
Matzek’s comeback appearance came a day after the Rockies’ Daniel Bard, who battled his own case of the yips, pitched for the first time since 2013. Matzek and Bard know each other from Bard’s stint as a mental skills coach with Arizona.
“I’m so happy for ‘Bardo,’ Matzek said. “Great dude.”
Rockies RHP German Marquez (0-1, 1.59) at A’s RHP Frankie Montas (0-0, 2.25)
1:40 p.m. Wednesday, Oakland Coliseum
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: KOA 850 AM/94.1 FM
Marquez was Colorado’s opening-day starter for the first time. Now he wants to be an ace. He certainly looked the part on Friday at Texas when he allowed one run on two hits with six strikeouts and three walks over 5 2/3 innings. The right-hander is making his second career start against the A’s, his first in Oakland. On July 29, 2018 at Coors Field, he held the A’s to two runs on five hits and fanned eight across 7 2/3 innings in Colorado’s victory.
Montas also threw on opening day for the first time, getting a no-decision in the A’s 7-3, 10-inning win over the Angels. He gave up one run on three hits, struck out five and walked three in four innings. He’s faced the Rockies once, taking the loss in a 3-2 Colorado victory on July 29, 2018 at Coors. He lasted just 4 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on eight hits. He pitched well in 16 starts last season (9-2, 2.63 ERA) but was suspended for 80 games for violating Major League Baseball’s drug policy. Opponents batted just .230 against Montas last season.
Trending: Rockies pitchers allowed just five runs in the opening three-game series at Texas, their fewest ever in an opening series and their fewest in any series since 2018.
At issue: Starting second baseman Ryan McMahon is off to a slow start. Entering Tuesday night’s game at Oakland, he was 0-for-10 with seven strikeouts.
Friday: Padres RHP Garrett Richards (0-0, 0.00) at Rockies RHP Jon Gray (0-0, 1.93), 6:10 p.m., ATTRM
Saturday: Padres LHP Joey Lucchesi (10-10, 4.18 in 2019) at Rockies LHP Kyle Freeland (1-0, 3.00), 6:10 p.m., ATTRM