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OC Register: Angels GM Billy Eppler said team still clear of coronavirus as players work out on their own

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As the previously scheduled Opening Day of the major league season approaches on Thursday, Angels players are scattered around the country, doing little baseball activity because the start of the season is nowhere in sight.

“We are really limited as to what we can do,” General manager Billy Eppler said via conference call on Tuesday. “The health and safety of everybody in the Angel organization is paramount and that’s where your mind goes first. Then how do we keep them in shape as best as we can knowing there’s not a lot of resources.”

On the former point, no Angels players or staffers have shown any of the symptoms of the coronavirus, Eppler said.

As for the latter, the facilities at Angel Stadium and in Tempe, Ariz., are both closed to all players except those rehabbing from injuries.

The rest of the players are on their own, isolated because of the COVID-19 crisis that has shut down much of the nation.

“I caught wind of a couple guys running some hill sprints or doing a little hill jogging,” Eppler said. “Pitchers are keeping their arms activated. A few guys are getting off the mound.”

Eppler said the starting pitchers have been asked to throw two bullpen sessions within the next six days, likely using the resources they have at their disposal in a normal winter. They could be throwing at a local college or high school, borrowing a catcher. Eppler said the Angels actually shipped out baseballs to some of the pitchers who needed them.

Griffin Canning may resume throwing sometime next week, once he gets four weeks beyond the platelet-rich plasma injection he received on Mar. 6. Canning was shut down early in the spring because of elbow discomfort, which so far has not been attributed to any sort of structural damage.

“All indications are he feels great,” Eppler said.

Shohei Ohtani has been playing catch on flat ground, and could be throwing off a mound in a couple weeks, Eppler said. Ohtani is expected to return to two-way duty this season after missing last season as a pitcher because of Tommy John surgery. The Angels had planned on delaying the start of his season as a pitcher until mid-May anyway, and now no one will play any games before then.

Otherwise, Eppler said he’s been in contact with the coaches, other parts of the baseball operations department and Major League Baseball, which has held regular conference calls to help plot out the uncertain return to action.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended that no gatherings of at least 50 people occur before May 10, so that likely delays the start of season until late May, at the earliest.

With players still unable to prepare normally, Eppler said they are planning to adjust on the fly whenever MLB gives them the green light. Teams are expected to get at least a few weeks for another “mini spring training” before the season starts.

“People always talk about or always think about what’s ideal and what you would prefer to have,” Eppler said, “but I tend to look at it as if there’s more than one way to try to solve a problem. If we’re given X amount of time, we’ll make whatever amount of time we’re given work. There’s so many things that MLB can do to assist clubs. If we’re given a shorter window to get ready, maybe one of the considerations is a bigger roster size. I think there’s a number of things that people could discuss and get our players and get us in the position where we’re not putting people at risk, but we’re able to begin playing sooner rather than later. I think that’s what everybody would want.”

 

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