‘It’s Been a Crazy Couple Days’: The Yankees’ Virus-Scrambled Week


The Yankees’ equipment truck was leaving Philadelphia on Tuesday afternoon, and the team buses were scheduled to do the same in about 45 minutes. Their game against the Phillies had been postponed, just like the previous night’s game matchup, so they were headed back to New York to get ready for a Wednesday game in the Bronx.

Then Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman called Manager Aaron Boone to ask him what he thought about playing the Orioles in Baltimore on Wednesday instead.

Boone was up for it. So were Yankees players, after reliever Zack Britton, the club’s players’ union representative, called for a team meeting and a vote before 1 p.m. During the meeting, Britton asked Ben Tuliebitz, the Yankees’ director of team travel and player services, if he could get the 70-some hotel rooms the club needed in Baltimore that quickly. Tuliebitz thought he could.

After Orioles players also approved the schedule changes and Major League Baseball signed off, the Yankees redirected their route south. By around 8 p.m., the Yankees were working out at Camden Yards in Baltimore in anticipation of a hastily assembled two-game series against the Orioles.

By Tuesday, Boone said, he would have been OK with playing at Citizens Bank Park if M.L.B. had allowed the games, but he understood the caution being exercised. And when another option presented itself, the Yankees seized it. After all, they believe they are primed to contend for a World Series title this season.

“We want to compete,” Cashman said. “If we’re off a day or two or a week or two, whatever it happens to be, so be it. We’ll deal with it and we’ll adjust to it.”

Pulling off a 60-game regular season with 30 teams across the country, including in hot spots like Georgia and Florida, requires so much to go right. And while some Yankees have occasionally violated some of M.L.B.’s protocols by spitting or high-fiving, players have repeatedly met to talk about their behavior on and away from the field.

“Most of the time it might be somebody pulling a guy aside and saying, ‘Hey, make sure we’re keeping a mask on or keeping our distance,’” Britton said. “Thankfully, we haven’t really had a need to call somebody out.”

The season, though, may change again in an instant. Cashman said the Yankees were approaching it week by week. The Yankees’ new home opener will be on Friday against the rival Boston Red Sox. After that three-game series, Boone said, the Yankees are expected to play four games against the Phillies — Aug. 3 and 4 in New York and Aug. 5 and 6 in Philadelphia.

Boone also said the Yankees are still expected to travel to face the Rays, their stiffest division rival after a 96-win season in 2019, next weekend, but what was once supposed to be a four-game series over four days may be squeezed into three days with a doubleheader. M.L.B. has not yet announced these changes.

Tuliebitz said Yankees officials were discussing the team’s policy on whether players — several of whom live in the Tampa area in the off-season — could stay at home instead of the team hotel. He said players have even considered having their family members tested for the virus before their arrival.

Reliever Adam Ottavino said he was not concerned about going to a state where the spread of the virus was rampant, because he planned to be only on the team charter plane and the bus and at the field and hotel.

“I’m not really in Tampa,” he said. “I’m in a lot of small areas.”

During a normal year, Tuliebitz said he has mapped out the Yankees’ travel arrangements at least eight months in advance. Now, he said he is looking at the upcoming weeks.

“We’re trying to pull this all together pretty quickly,” he said. “The most difficult part is making sure we’re doing things right.”



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