Rob Manfred: ‘We believe the protocols are adequate to keep our players safe’

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The same day that ten members of the Miami Marlins tested positive for COVID-19 — days after four others were sidelined as well — Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said that he believed that MLB’s anti-COVID-19 system is working and that “We believe the protocols are adequate to keep our players safe.”

In an interview with Tom Verducci, he pushed back on the notion that the Marlins situation — which caused two postponements yesterday, at least one today, and the quarantining of the entire Miami club — is a “nightmare scenario.” Manfred:

“I don’t put this in the nightmare category. It’s not a positive thing, but I don’t see it as a nightmare . . . that’s why we have the expanded rosters. That’s why we have the pool of additional players . . . I remain optimistic the protocols are strong enough that it will allow us to continue to play even through an outbreak like this and complete our season.”

Manfred did not talk about the reason Miami was allowed to play the Phillies on Sunday despite four positive tests then and unknown results pending. Results which, as we learned yesterday, ended up containing a rash of positives. As was reported yesterday, that decision was not coordinated with Major League Baseball, the MLBPA or with public health experts or doctors. Rather, the decision to play was left up to the Marlins players who engaged in a group text in which shortstop Miguel Rojas made the call.

Earlier in the month Manfred was interviewed by Dan Patrick about what may lead the league to shut things down. Here’s what he said:

“I don’t have a firm number of days in mind (to pause the season). I think the way that I think about it, Dan, is in the vein of competitive integrity, in a 60-game season. If we have a team or two that’s really decimated with a number of people who had the virus and can’t play for any significant period of time, it could have a real impact on the competition and we’d have to think very, very hard about what we’re doing.”

One would think that would describe the Marlins situation, but apparently not. In the absence of Manfred explaining the specific thought process of Sunday and Monday, one gets the distinct impression that he’s doing all of this on a reactive, ad-hoc basis.

The most immediate result of that ad-hoc approach: Manfred’s suggestion that the Marlins might play games in Baltimore as early as tomorrow, with all of those reserves from the 60-man player pool he spoke of stepping up to fill holes. Here’s what an epidemiologist Ken Rosenthal and Jayson Stark of The Athletic spoke to thought of that:

This is absolutely insane .  . . if possible, the literal stupidest possible plan. You have a raging outbreak, anyone in the Marlins traveling party could be infected regardless of how their tests come back. So by all means, just bring that on the road to Baltimore! . . . At a minimum, you have to shut down for at least five days to see if more cases uncover. And you need to wait because you could have ongoing transmission from cases that are newly discovered tomorrow or the next day. You could still have more come from chains of transmission from those people after that. So there’s no cure but time here, unfortunately.”

Time, however, is not something it seems Rob Manfred is willing to give when there are games to be broadcast.

Rich Hill keeps Cardinals off balance into 7th, Pirates complete three-game sweep with 2-1 victory


PITTSBURGH – When he’s on, Rich Hill‘s pitches still dance. They still dart. They go this way. Then that way. They can baffle hitters with their movement, particularly the ones that don’t come close to breaking the speed limit on most interstates.

In a game that seems to get faster each year, Hill is a throwback. A survivor. At 43 and 19 years into a career he figured would have been over long ago, the well-traveled left-hander knows he’s essentially playing on borrowed time.

Hill is in Pittsburgh to show a young staff how to be a pro while occasionally showing the kids he can still bring it. That example was on display in a 2-1 victory over St. Louis on Sunday that gave Pittsburgh a three-game sweep of its longtime NL Central nemesis.

Knowing the bullpen needed a bit of a break, Hill (5-5) kept the Cardinals off balance for 6 2/3 innings, expertly weaving in and out of trouble with a series of curveballs that hover around 70 mph offset by a fastball that can touch 90 mph but plays up because everything else comes in so much softer.

Hill walked three and struck out six while giving up just one run, a seventh-inning homer by Andrew Knizner that drew the Cardinals within one. He allowed the leadoff hitter to reach in the first four innings and stranded them all as the Pirates pushed their winning streak to five.

“He threw the pitches he wanted to throw,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “They didn’t swing at them. The fact that he’s able to just bounce back and continue to execute shows how savvy he is as a veteran.”

Ji Hwan Bae‘s two-run single off Miles Mikolas (4-2) in the first provided all the offense Hill would need as Pittsburgh swept St. Louis for the first time in five years. Ke'Bryan Hayes singled three times and is hitting .562 (9 for 16) over his last four games after a 3-for-32 funk dropped him to seventh in the batting order.

David Bednar worked the ninth for his 13th save and third in as many days, striking out Knizner with a 98 mph fastball that provided an exclamation point to three days of tight, meaningful baseball, the kind the Pirates haven’t played much of for the better part of a decade.

“We know we have a very good team,” Hill said. “We’ve had meetings in here and we talk about it and reinforce it and just continue to go out there and give that effort every single night and understand that (if) we continue to put in the work, it’ll start to show every night on the field.”

Tommy Edman had two hits for the Cardinals, and designated hitter Luken Baker picked up the first two hits of his career after being called up from Triple-A Memphis early Sunday.

The middle of the St. Louis lineup – Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Gorman and Nolan Arenado – went a combined 0 for 11 as St. Louis lost for the fifth time in six games. The Cardinals left 27 men on base at PNC Park over the weekend to fall back into last place in one of the weakest divisions in the majors.

It’s a division the Pirates – coming off back-to-back 100-loss seasons – are managing to hang around the top of for a solid two months. The bullpen has evolved into a strength, with Bednar at the back end and a series of flashy hard throwers like Dauri Moreta in the middle.

Moreta came on for Hill with two outs in the seventh and struck out Goldschmidt with the tying run at first while Hill was in the dugout accepting high-fives, already thinking about his next start, likely on Saturday against the New York Mets. It’s a mindset that has kept Hill around for far longer than he ever imagined.

“Every time he picks up a baseball, I know he feels blessed to be able to continue to throw baseballs for a living,” Pirates catcher Austin Hedges said. “I think that’s one of the best things he can teach our young guys.”


Cardinals: Continue a six-game road trip in Texas against the Rangers on Monday. Adam Wainwright (2-1, 6.15 ERA) faces Martín Pérez (6-1, 4.43 ERA) in the opener.

Pirates: A season-long nine-game homestand continues on Monday when lowly Oakland visits. Johan Oviedo (3-4, 4.50 ERA) gets the start against JP Sears (0-3, 4.37 ERA).