Indians paying minor leaguers stipends, shut spring complex

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CLEVELAND (AP)With no end to the coronavirus shutdown in sight and no certainty about baseball’s return this season, the Cleveland Indians will continue to pay minor league players their weekly stipends to help offset any “hardship” during the hiatus.

The team also is closing its year-round facility in Arizona, starting on Friday.

During a conference call Thursday, Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said that he’s not aware of any players or staff members testing positive for COVID-19.

On Wednesday, the Cincinnati Reds, whose training facility is next door to Cleveland’s in Goodyear, Arizona, said an employee who works year-round at the complex tested positive. All Reds employees who were in contact with the employee during spring training are being tested and have self-quarantined.

Antonetti provided an update on the Indians efforts during the outbreak, saying every decision being made has been “with the guiding principle that we will continue to prioritize the health, safety and well being of our players, our staff and the rest of our employees.”

Antonetti noted how quickly things have changed in a week. It wasn’t long ago that the spring training schedule and Arizona’s unusual rain this year were topics of concern. Those issues – and so much more – seem trivial now in the context of a deadly global pandemic.

“So literally, each day has brought a new challenge,” he said.

The Indians are indefinitely shutting down their complex in Goodyear this week. Antonetti said that other than a few players who were finishing off rehabilitation assignments, most have returned from spring training camp to their offseason homes for “potentially the next few months.”

Cleveland is looking out financially for its minor league players, who are unable to collect unemployment benefits during the virus hiatus because they are technically under contract with their clubs. The Indians are paying their minor leaguers their $400 per week stipends.

“One of the things we want to make sure we continue to do as an organization is support our players and staff as best as we possibly could,” Antonetti said. “With respect to our minor league guys, we recognize the hardship this could impose upon them and so we wanted to make sure we did our part to try to help them as best as we possibly could, especially in the transition back home.”

Shortly after Antonetti spoke, Major League Baseball announced a league-wide initiative to compensate minor league players. Each player under a minor league contract will receive a lump sum equal to what they would have been paid through April 8.

In its release, MLB said it was also discussing an industry-wide plan for player compensation for after April 9 and through the beginning of the coming season.

Antonetti added that a housing complex for players near the facility will remain open, but changes have been made with each player living in his own room.

“Boxed meals are being dropped off at the complex to try to minimize the amount of time those players are out from the complex and traveling other places,” he said. “There is a group that will remain there for at least the foreseeable future.”

Antonetti said the team has been staying in regular contact with its major league players, who are now dispersed across the U.S.

As for them staying in baseball shape while waiting to see if they’ll play again in 2020, Antonetti said the team is only asking them to stay healthy and to abide by any recommendations given by health officials trying to stem the virus from spreading further.

“If at this point that means baseball workouts are secondary, then they’re secondary,” Antonetti said. “We’ve encouraged our guys to do as much as they can while adhering to those guidelines. That’s a lot of individual workouts in their home, going for runs outside, taking advantage of the space they have to stay in the best shape possible. But most importantly adhering to the guidelines from the health experts.”

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