With Opening Day a little more than two weeks away, Cincinnati Reds right-hander Trevor Bauer felt prepared for the start of the 2020 regular season.
The global coronavirus pandemic, however, indefinitely delayed the start of games and forced the league to instruct clubs to pack up spring training. At this point, there's no clear timetable for the sport's return — or any sport for that matter.
When that time arrives and baseball announces its scheduled return, Bauer said he'd need at least three weeks notice to put himself in a position to comfortably take the mound in regular season competition.
"I felt ready to go for the season," Bauer said via phone Sunday. "But I get ready a lot quicker than the vast majority of guys. For whatever reason, my body just responds well that way. Something in that range, the three-to-four week range would be absolute minimum in my mind. Who knows how it’s going to shape out though?"
Players may have no choice but to revert their training regimens to mirror those of months from the start of a season rather than weeks. But the uncertainty with which the sports world is currently operating is why Bauer's described timetable is more of an educated guess than based on experience.
"It’s tough to say because no one’s ever gone through this before. None of the current players, for sure," said Bauer, who was amid his first spring training with the Reds. "Again, I can speak for myself personally. I generally feel that I need three to four weeks to ramp up. I had three starts in the spring plus 10 days before games started. So I think that’s 25-ish, 20 days, of spring training."
There are plenty of other unknowns Bauer and the rest of the league must grapple with in the coming weeks and months when action does pick up again. There are questions about contracts and service time, incentives and payouts. He recently posted a conversation with his agent, Rachel Luba, discussing such issues on his YouTube channel.
“Do we scale everything just proportionally or are people going to go to arbitration having thrown only 80 innings because that’s how long the season was? Are starters now compared to relievers?" Bauer said. "I don’t know. I don’t think anyone knows in this aspect.”
Bauer pointed out that the last significant work stoppage occurred 26 years ago, and he fears the best practices from that era for negotiating those circumstances are outdated. Will the 2020 season require an asterisk placed next to the year in history books, especially if 162 games becomes unattainable?
“There’s a lot of questions. I don’t know how they’re going to shake out," Bauer admitted. "They have to be discussed because they’re large parts of our industry and there’s a lot of people, not only this year and current players, but people in the next five to 10 years in the arbitration system and the free agency system when we’re talking about comparable players and whatnot that are going to be affected.”
Bauer hopes the league and players will come together to figure out these problems and that both sides will maintain an open dialogue — when the time is right.
“The legal side of baseball probably should be the least of our worries," he said. "We have a global pandemic going on and lots of people dealing with life and death situations, so I’m hopeful that the two parties will come together and get it all worked out and someone won’t try to angle to get the absolute best deal — that we’ll get a deal that works best for both parties."