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Quick pivots in schedule needed in MLB coronavirus season

New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez (24) and pitcher Zack Britton celebrate after a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Sunday, July 26, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez (24) and pitcher Zack Britton celebrate after a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Sunday, July 26, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

NEW YORK – Forget about printing a 2020 baseball schedule. Cyberspace is needed for all the backspaces and deletes.

After Major League Baseball discarded the 162-game schedule due to the pandemic, the revised 60-game slate was intact for just four days due to positive COVID-19 tests among the Miami Marlins.

Because the Philadelphia had just played the Marlins, the Phillies are sidelined, too, through Friday as a precaution pending the incubation period. That left a void in the schedule of the New York Yankees, who were scheduled for four games against the Phillies this week.

Following a phone call Tuesday between baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred and New York team president Randy Levine, the Yankees bused to Baltimore for a two-game series against the Orioles rather than go home to await weekend home games versus Boston.

“The fact that we were able to make this change shows that the commissioner’s protocols work and gives him the flexibility to navigate through these times,” Levine said Wednesday.

Yankees players voted unanimously to allow the changes.

“Their attitude is: `Tell us where and we’ll be there,‘” general manager Brian Cashman said. “And that’s, I think, a very powerful statement by them.”

After Manfred finished his call with Levine, he instructed Chris Marinak, MLB’s executive vice president of strategy, technology and innovation, to try to shoehorn in a Yankees-Orioles series at Camden Yards for Wednesday and Thursday. Baltimore had been slated to play four games against the Marlins this week, two on the road followed by two at home.

New York’s four games against Philadelphia are being rescheduled for next week, the first two at Yankee Stadium.

“We knew from the beginning, before we even started the season, that there was a chance that we may have some positive tests over the course of the season and that we may have to postpone certain games,” Marinak said.

He created dozens of schedules during the past few months. The regional version chosen has teams play each division rival 10 times mixed with 20 games against the corresponding division in the other league.

“There’s a much better chance of being able to find places to replay games because teams are much closer to each other and there’s not as much substantial travel to replay games,” he said. “Secondly, you have more common opponents. And when you have more of the same opponents, you have more options to move series around, which is exactly what you saw we’ve done here”

New York had stayed at the Park Hyatt Washington for its opening series against the Nationals and was at the Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia when MLB called off the games against the Phillies.

“The hotel had been closed,” said Ben Tuliebitz, the Yankees’ director of team travel and player services. “There was like a sincere sense of joy of the staff being back to work. Even the bell staff that were just opening the doors and guys busing the tables after the team finished their meals, they were smiling, just so happy to be back to work.”

Yankees staff had driven the equipment from Citizens Bank Park back to hotel on Monday, and buses were 45 minutes from starting the trip back to New York when reliever Zack Britton, the Yankees’ player representative, called Tuliebitz at about 12:30 p.m.

“We need to get the entire team together for a meeting right now," Tuliebitz recalled Britton saying.

New York players voted unanimously to approve the switch to Baltimore.

“We felt like, well, we don’t want to take three or four days off,” Britton said. “If there’s an opportunity for us to go to Baltimore and play, that’s what we want to do.”

New York then had to wait for Orioles players to vote and for MLB to make it official.

Already in Miami. Orioles manager Brandon Hyde awakened in the morning to texts about the Marlins.

“I had a nice breakfast, Four Seasons room service,” he said, “I communicated with our club that we’re still preparing to play but we have no idea what’s going on, just be by your phone. stay in your rooms, we’re not leaving the hotel. The Four Seasons there has a really good cheeseburger that I ordered. I had a nice lunch by myself in my room. Continued to talk throughout the day about what’s going on, getting more and more information. And then the next thing you know we’re not playing and headed back to the Baltimore.”

Tuliebitz spent the afternoon arranging for rooms at the Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore, where there was availability but the management had to arrange sufficient staff.

General manager Brian Cashman got word of approval at 2:30 p.m., Yankees’ buses left about 5 p.m. and the team went straight to Camden Yards for a workout. The Yankees arrived at the hotel after practice.

Cashman wanted to make sure the team’s staff was set to swap advance scouting reports on the Phillies for data on the Orioles and load it onto the iPads used by coaches and players.

Rescheduling is made easier by the absence of concert commitments at ballparks and conventions booked into hotels.

Marinak, meanwhile, is working to reschedule the games. And up ahead could be the usual late-season weather issues.

For Tuliebitz, there's not much time to rework things.

“Normally for me and my counterparts around the league, this is stuff that we have planned out and mapped out eight months, 10 months a year in advance,” Tuliebitz said. “The most difficult part about this really is just making sure we’re doing things right.”

All the extra protocols put in place because of the pandemic add complications.

“Rather than just finding a hotel that can accommodate the team and getting a contract signed and making sure they have enough rooms and making sure you have your transportation lined up, it’s that extra layer of making sure that things are done appropriately, because I don’t think anybody wants to have it have anything go wrong and have it be on their hands," he said.

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AP Sports Writer David Ginsburg in Baltimore in contributed to this report.

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