January 29, 2023

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MLB players scramble to stay fit, sharp as lockout goes on

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MLB players scramble to stay fit, sharp as lockout goes on

Miami Marlins players on the 40-man roster, who are locked out of their spring training site, held a scrimmage Feb. 11 at Cressey Sports Performance in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Photo courtesy of Richard Bleier/Instagram

MIAMI, Feb. 28 (UPI) — With MLB’s lockout still in force, baseball fans cannot watch their favorite players in spring training games, but they might spot them working out on local fields and in area gyms as they seek to remain fit.

Players on 40-man rosters, some of whom were to report as early as Feb. 15 to sites in Florida and Arizona, can’t use those campuses or team resources amid the standstill. Instead, many players who own off-season homes near their spring training sites are getting together to scrimmage and work out.

The lack of a centralized location to get in shape has led to sightings of some of the league’s top players in unexpected places. One Philadelphia Phillies fan, for example, spotted reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper biking on the streets of Clearwater, Fla.

MLB spring training games, which had been scheduled to start Friday, now won’t begin until at least March 8. A longer delay could lead more of a scramble to prepare for the season — if there is one.

Some veteran players, like Miami Marlins infielder Miguel Rojas, gathered teammates in makeshift settings. They lack the resources of a typical training camp, but they help teams maintain chemistry and keep players motivated to improve.

“I appreciate my boys’ commitment and sacrifice to get better every single day,” Rojas tweeted earlier this month from one of the workouts.

Rojas’ teammates, including All-Star pitcher Sandy Alcantara and infielder Jazz Chisholm, were among those who recently met at a Cressey Sports Performance field in Palm Beach Gardens, about 6 miles south of their spring home at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.

Earlier this week, Rojas gave fans a chance to follow along when he broadcast a game simulation on Instagram live.

Yankees players, including Aaron Judge, D.J. LeMahieu and Luke Voit, worked out alongside players from other MLB teams earlier this week at the University of South Florida’s baseball stadium.

That stadium is near the Yankees’ spring home in Tampa, Fla. Players arrive in the morning and use the college team’s batting cages and fields before the Bulls’ practices.

Rival Boston Red Sox players have worked about 150 miles south at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.

“With this lockout now, you gotta build relationships and find facilities,” Judge said Feb. 17 on the R2C2 podcast. “You gotta go hit at one place, and then drive 20 minutes to get a workout in. Then drive another 20 minutes and get physical therapy and drive back. It’s a little different.”

Harper and fellow former MVP Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, who train in Florida and Arizona, respectively, haven’t been seen in group workouts, but posted footage from individual sessions on social media.

Toronto Blue Jays All-Star first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., regularly posts videos of his workouts on his Instagram account.

The expected American League MVP contender shared footage earlier this month from the Dominican Republic. He now is training at the Fortuna Training Facility in Plant City, Fla., about an hour west of the Blue Jays’ spring training site in Dunedin.

Some private trainers in Arizona and Florida post workout footage of various MLB players on their Instagram accounts at a time when those clients normally would be under an MLB team’s close watch.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said earlier this year that players need at least four weeks of spring training to protect their health and prepare for a season.

The league began its first lockout in 26 years in December. Team owners opted for the work stoppage after they failed to complete a new labor agreement with the MLB Players’ Association.

Owners and player representatives continue to negotiate minimum salary structure, arbitration, revenue sharing and other issues, but are running out of time. The league said Wednesday that it will start to cancel regular-season games if the two sides can’t agree to a new deal by Monday.

“It’s fascinating MLB setting a hard deadline to play a full season for Monday,” San Francisco Giants pitcher Alex Wood tweeted this week. “They locked us out. Had barely any contact for two months post-lockout.

“[The owners] have yet to make a single good-faith offer to even initiate real conversations to get a deal done. Just make a real offer.”

Every day that passes without an agreement costs players, owners and vendors money.

New York Mets pitcher Max Scherzer, a player representative for the MLBPA, who helps supervise the negotiations, is among those on 40-man rosters who stand to lose the most the longer the lockout lingers.

He could forfeit more than $232,000 for each canceled day of the 186-day regular season. Players who make the minimum salary stand to lose about $4,000 for each day missed.

Baseball at its core is not a math equation, it’s not a business, it’s not a platform, it’s not a political avenue,” free agent outfielder Steven Souza tweeted Friday.

“Baseball was made to bring joy, it was made for every race, socio-economic status, every size, every shape, every age, every speed, every personality.

“More than any sport in the world baseball has and will always represent many different cultures and many different backgrounds. Owners were once little kids, Rob Manfred was once a young boy, [union director] Tony Clark was once a young boy, [agent] Scott Boras was once a young boy.

“All these young boys at one point or another loved baseball so much that they wanted to be a part of it. Somewhere along the line, we’ve all lost sight on looking out for each other, and making sure this game thrives.”

MLB Opening Day is scheduled for March 31, and all 30 teams are to be in action — the first time since 1968 that every organization plays its first game on the same day. That is, if the season starts on time.

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