Dodgers manager Dave Roberts confirmed Tuesday that three additional players haven’t reported to training camp at Dodger Stadium since the operation opened last Wednesday: top catcher prospect Keibert Ruiz, right-handed pitcher Tony Gonsolin and left-handed pitcher Scott Alexander.
In a conference call with reporters, Roberts explained he couldn’t disclose the reason for the players’ absences.
The three join closer Kenley Jansen, outfielder A.J. Pollock, infielder Gavin Lux and right-hander Pedro Báez as players Roberts has confirmed haven’t joined the team without an explanation for their statuses.
The situation is bound to generate speculation. Did the players test positive for COVID-19? Are they still waiting for test results? Are they contemplating not participating this season?
It is an unparalleled predicament the Dodgers and the other 29 major league clubs have encountered in the first week of MLB’s shaky attempt to launch a season in the middle of a global pandemic.
Organizations aren’t allowed to share whether a player tested positive for COVID-19 without the player’s permission. Even the COVID-19 injured list, added this season as part of the league’s 100-plus-page Operations Manual, will be kept private.
Players will go on the list without an announcement from the club unless the player decides to allow his case to go public. So there could be occasions when players — whether they test positive or exhibit symptoms before testing — disappear without official explanation for varying periods of time until they are cleared to return by twice testing negative for the virus.
Some players around the league have either announced they tested positive or given their teams permission to disclose the information. The Dodgers have had players test positive — both Roberts and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman have acknowledged positive tests among players — but no names have been divulged.
“I don’t think there’s a right or wrong,” Roberts said. “I think that’s the individual’s right to voice what’s going on with them personally. I don’t think it’s my call to make that public. Some people are handling it differently.”
From a baseball standpoint, the absences hurt a club that had less than three weeks of team workouts to prepare for a shortened season in which every game would carry more weight than usual.
Jansen is one of MLB’s most decorated closers over the last decade. Pollock was the Dodgers’ big free-agent acquisition last winter. Báez is a trusted veteran reliever. Alexander is a left-handed option for the bullpen. Gonsolin debuted last season with versatility to earn a spot in the starting rotation or bullpen. Lux is the organization’s top prospect and a favorite for NL Rookie of the Year. Ruiz is a highly regarded catcher who could debut this season.
The team definitely will be without left-hander David Price and right-hander Jimmy Nelson. Price announced Saturday his decision to not play this season. Nelson was scheduled to undergo season-ending lumbar surgery Tuesday.
That leaves the Dodgers without nine players from their initial player pool of 51 heading into the second week of training camp.
The Dodgers boast arguably the deepest club in the majors. That depth helped produce seven straight division titles, World Series appearances in 2017 and 2018, and 106 wins last season. Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler and Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts and many other talented players are working out.
But losing key contributors in a 60-game season, when unexpected results are already anticipated, could have an outsized impact in the pursuit of their first championship in 32 years.
“The guys that are not here, certainly are going to be behind,” Roberts said. “And we got to do the best we can to get them up to speed, get them back into shape. But certainly every day that they lose, is certainly a day we can’t get back.”
Roberts added he expects all seven players to return “soon.” When, exactly, is unclear, as is so much else.
Kershaw renamed opening-day starter
As expected, Roberts announced Kershaw will be the Dodgers’ opening-day starter July 23 against the San Francisco Giants.
Kershaw was named the starter for the original opening day — March 26 against the Giants — in spring training three days before the league suspended operations. It would be Kershaw’s ninth career opening-day start, which would extend a franchise record.
The left-hander threw four innings in an intrasquad game Monday and logged a fifth simulated inning in the bullpen.
Roberts said Max Muncy didn’t participate in Monday’s intrasquad game because of a finger injury he suffered Sunday. Roberts emphasized the injury is minor and shouldn’t sideline Muncy for long. … AJ Ramos will likely throw his first bullpen session as a Dodger on Wednesday or Thursday before pitching in an intrasquad game, according to Roberts. Ramos, an All-Star closer in 2016, signed a minor league contract last week.