Players, coaches and managers will let you know they do not make the schedule. They play who is put in front of them and however that works out, it works out.
If this is the week in which your opponent doesn’t have its starting quarterback or point guard, luck of the draw. If you are playing too many day games after night games or your West Coast trips are particularly ill-timed, your executives probably lobbied to change it before it became official, but here you are.
This major league season, though, has put all these concepts through the looking glass. Which players are available daily has never been more in question since a common cold now will put a player on the injured list until he tests a few times to demonstrate it is not COVID-19. Which opponent you are playing and where has become a multiple choice question.
No team is going to be immune from the implications — flexibility is going to mean a lot more than if a player can kick his leg up above his head. But clearly greater advantages and disadvantages will be derived. The Blue Jays, for example, have no home games in their actual Toronto home. The Marlins, when they are scheduled to restart Tuesday, will have had to alter more than half a roster decimated by COVID-19. The Phillies did not play in the last week due to proximity to the infested Marlins, which could mean as many as 57 games in 56 days if they are to complete a 60-game schedule.
Conversely, the Yankees, to date, have benefited more than most. Again, no club is immune. DJ LeMahieu missed most of spring training 2.0 with the virus, and Luis Cessa and Aroldis Chapman are just returning now. Does Tommy Kahnle need Tommy John surgery because of the build up, shut down, build up reality of a re-start that has seen a spree of pitching injuries. The Yankees last week were stuck two days in Philadelphia without playing, were about to return home perhaps to play the Phillies and then pivoted to Baltimore to play the Orioles.
But even in that last one, you see the glimmer. There is no such thing as a sure win in the majors, but putting the Yankees in Camden Yards is as close as you get.
What else aided and abetted the Yankees in a 6-1 start?
— Juan Soto learned just hours before the season opener that he was COVID-19 positive. So the defending champs lost the best hitter from a lineup that already was without Anthony Rendon (signed with the Angels) and Ryan Zimmerman (opted out of the season).
The Nationals won once against the Yankees — the middle game of the three-game set in which Stephen Strasburg was scratched with nerve pain in his right hand. Which emphasizes that not every gift is opened.
— If your season is going to be impacted by COVID-19, there is a blessing to being in the right place at the right time. The Yankees had two games in Philadelphia postponed, but rather than have to go on an extended hiatus and risk losing the edge of playing, they were able to go to Baltimore to play because the Orioles were supposed to be facing the Marlins. Thus, the Marlins and Phillies were shut down, but the Yankees were able to keep on playing. Comparatively — as an example — the Nationals will have four days off before playing Tuesday because over the weekend they were supposed to play the Marlins.
— The Red Sox have just one quality starter and the Yankees missed Nathan Eovaldi because he pitched Wednesday against the Mets. In addition, Eduardo Rodriguez will not pitch this season due to a heart issue the Red Sox believe is a ramification of the lefty having had COVID-19. The only two Red Sox pitchers with sustained success against the Yankees last year were Eovaldi and Rodriguez.
— The Phillies will have gone seven days without playing when they face the Yankees in The Bronx on Monday. They were put on ice to await to see if any of their personnel contracted coronavirus after playing three games against the Marlins. No Phillie player tested positive. The team has had three workouts.
“It is human nature to think why us or poor Phillies, ‘Why did this happen,’ ” Jake Arrieta told Philadelphia reporters Sunday. “But once you have that initial thought and get it out of your head and turn the page, then it is time to think what do we have to do to stay ready; as ready as we possibly can, even though it is difficult.”
Nevertheless, a good attitude isn’t as valuable as continuing to face strong competition. Arrieta said with simulated games and bullpen sessions he is good for at least 80-90 pitches in his Monday 2020 debut. But expect Phillies manager Joe Girardi to be cautious in how much he extends any of his arms in the short run considering the rampant pitching injuries consuming the game.
That should be another advantage Yankees in this bizarre season.
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