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BubbleBall: Schedule forces Cardinals into MLB-mandated quarantine for playoffs, nine days early
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BubbleBall: Schedule forces Cardinals into MLB-mandated quarantine for playoffs, nine days early

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St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Andrew Miller throws during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

MILWAUKEE — As part of the snow globe plan baseball dropped on its postseason Tuesday, teams learned officially that in the coming week they’ll have to quarantine in a hotel or other site as preparation for the playoffs.

Turns out the Cardinals have already started theirs.

The mandatory quarantine date for National League clubs is Sept. 23, and since that is the final day of the Cardinals’ current road trip their schedule has effectively put them in quarantine nine days early. Some packed accordingly — for a road trip that could, if they reach the World Series, extend toward 50 days, even if somehow they play a series at Busch Stadium.

“It’s 2020,” said veteran Andrew Miller, who serves on the MLBPA’s executive subcommittee that works to negotiate with the owners and commissioner. “I think the sacrifices will have to continue, and this is a big part of it. Players certainly have an appreciation for making sure we do everything we can to have a successful playoff run. That is a big part of what we’re doing this year — is to get to the playoffs and call it what it is: Get that TV money. A hope that money gets into the game, and we find a way to survive this year that is obviously tough financially.”

After seeing leagues like the NHL and NBA successfully move their playoffs into one- or two-city bubbles, Major League Baseball wanted to avoid the outbreaks the Cardinals and Marlins had during the regular season by vacuum-sealing their postseason, too.

Eight teams from each league will reach the postseason, and the first round will be a three-game series at the site of the higher seed. As of Tuesday morning, that would send the Cardinals to Wrigley Field to face the third-seeded Cubs. All subsequent rounds of the playoffs will move to neutral-site ballparks.

The National League will have division series played at Houston and Texas, with the NLCS playing in Arlington, Texas, and the Rangers’ new ballpark, Globe Life Field. The American League’s division series will be in San Diego and at Dodger Stadium. The ALCS will be at San Diego’s Petco Park.

The World Series will be held at Globe Life Field and likely, for the first time in the Fall Classic’s history, at a neutral site.

“We’ve gotten this far, and one of the reasons we play is for the playoffs,” manager Mike Shildt said. “So, let’s make sure it’s not compromised for anybody.”

Shildt, a self-described “light packer,” brought a bigger suitcase, hoping for a long stay in MLB’s October snow globe.

“That’s what I’m counting on,” he said.

Miller said it was clear from the first proposal from the commissioner’s office that a bubble plan was going to cover the expanded playoffs. What players wanted was clarity on whether they could bring their families into the bubbles, and who would handle the costs of the mandatory week of quarantine in a hotel. All of that was negotiated, with the individual expense on players being reduced so that all the rookies in the game didn’t have their prorated salaries riddled with added costs, Miller pointed out.

There is also a structure in place for players to have their families in the bubble, Miller said, though he said it’s complex and he and his wife have elected not to do so. Miller called the logistics of the next few weeks “a nightmare” that baseball had to piece together.

Jack Flaherty and Paul Goldschmidt organized the Cardinals’ conversation on the plan, and one concern they had was this road trip. It was clear it would overlap with quarantine, so how could the team pack for both a 10-day, 13-game, three-city tour — and the month of October.

There was a scramble this past weekend as the Cardinals got direction, and still some players will have to get some items delivered to them in quarantine, by family or team employee.

“We’ve done a good job,” Miller said. “It’s important to get to the finish line. It is what it is. This is 2020.”

Where protocols warp strategy

In the eighth inning of Monday’s Game 2, catcher Matt Wieters started the inning at second base in part because there wasn’t a starting pitcher at the ballpark to even consider as a pinch-runner. As part of the Cardinals’ protocols coming out of their COVID-19 outbreak, the team sends the starting pitchers away from the field, even to a hotel, before the start of the game. The team does this to limit interaction — but it has this limitation on strategy, too.

They aren’t available for pinch-running, and because of the DH and the team’s limited time at the ballpark the pitchers don’t practice baserunning as they normally would. That’s another reason why Shildt would be hesitant to use them.

“Some of the residual things that are also self-inflicted,” Shildt said of the team’s enhanced practices. “With the schedule we have and continue to have getting guys out for early work and baserunning and BP on the field and all the things that are more fundamental based, effectively we can’t do. That can be reflected in some things as well.”

Oviedo set, Gant strides

Johan Oviedo drove to Milwaukee on Tuesday with the intent to start the second game of Wednesday’s doubleheader at Miller Park. Oviedo tested negative for COVID-19 for the seventh consecutive day, and he will receive a rapid test Wednesday morning to reach eight consecutive. The rookie has been on the COVID-19 injured list for a week because he was exposed to someone who later tested positive for the virus, and the Cardinals wanted to separate Oviedo from the club until he was clear of concern. He never experienced symptoms. … John Gant (groin) ran with teammates Tuesday afternoon at Miller Park and could be available as early as Wednesday for the doubleheader.


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