Masks were aplenty, as was distancing. Players were spread out, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt wind-sprinting around the infield. Pitchers were long-tossing, an activity built for long spaces. Day One of Giants camp 2.0 is completed, and the team’s strategy for both getting ready and staying safe during summer training has become clear:
Adjusting every part of the park and adjusting so much of players’ routine.
Change is in the center-field warning track, where an impromptu mound sat. Change was in deep left field, where a cage was set up. Change was inevitable in the bullpens, which are completed beyond the right-center field fence.
Hell, change was being stored in Brandon Crawford’s mouth.
“After we were running, it was something me, Longo and [Brandon] Belt were all talking about,” Crawford said on a Friday Zoom after his workout. “How we all really wanted to [spit] but we had to hold it back.”
The Giants’ first day back before what they hope will be a rushed 60-game season displayed a willingness to adjust, from a parking lot that was converted to an open space for infield practice to spreading out lockers and using both dugouts, attempts to keep as much space between the players as possible. The players were expected to work out in three waves, pitchers more visible than hitters, who hit in back cages.
Crawford, who said he had no reservations about returning to the game during the pandemic, has been working out in groups of four at Scottsdale Stadium with other Giants and has gotten used to the differences.
And yet, “It definitely didn’t feel like a normal day at the ballpark,” the shortstop said.
He did not complain about his tongue needing to stay away from his fingers, which would help him grip the ball. As others have opted out of the season, there has yet to be a sign from the Giants of rebelling against the league or protocols.
MLB announced Thursday that 38 total players and coaches have tested positive for COVID-19 across the league during initial tests to begin spring training. That does not count a player like Hunter Bishop, who tested positive before he arrived in camp. Of the 38 — 1.2 percent of the samples taken — 31 are players, with 19 clubs having at least one positive case.
From all accounts, the Giants want to play. Taking advantage of every inch of Oracle Park reflects that, as does the message from their players.
“We need to stop kind of holding on to the past, understand what the new norm is and adjust to that new norm,” Jeff Samardzija said before taking his turn on the field. “Need to put all excuses aside, do what you need to do to be allowed to go out there and play.”
Samardzija added that the team had to avoid doing anything “stupid.” It will be the team’s job to self-police to ensure an ill-advised get-together does not take down the club.
Samardzija spoke optimistically about his workload, saying he could envision throwing 75-85 pitches to open the season after having thrown five or six days per week in Arizona through the past few months. Crawford has been part of a sizable click in Scottsdale, and though he has not seen real, live pitching since spring training 1.0, he’s returning in shape.
“There’s a lot to talk about and a lot of issues when things aren’t normal, and that’s kind of where we’re at,” Samardzija said. “Once everyone gets used to a routine, I think you’ll see things slide back into normal.”
The Giants and Major League Baseball hope.