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A’s open first road trip amid uncertainty over safety, potential season shutdown

San Francisco Chronicle logo San Francisco Chronicle 8/1/2020 By Susan Slusser
a person in a baseball uniform throwing a ball: OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - JULY 29: Manager of the Oakland Athletics Bob Melvin #6 looks on before the game against the Colorado Rockies at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on July 29, 2020 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) © Lachlan Cunningham / Getty Images

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - JULY 29: Manager of the Oakland Athletics Bob Melvin #6 looks on before the game against the Colorado Rockies at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on July 29, 2020 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Every day, baseball teeters ever closer to a shutdown point, with games postponed and positive coronavirus tests. Road trips seem particularly risky, and the A’s opened their first series away from home Friday, traveling to Seattle for four games.

Even a familiar city can seem very different in uncertain times. Oakland manager Bob Melvin, whose team visits Seattle three times in a normal season, also managed the Mariners, and before Friday’s game, he said, “You see the office buildings, there’s nobody in those, and the restaurants, and not a lot of people on the street. So it’s a little bit of an eerie feeling, especially when we came in on our buses.

“It’s too bad, it’s sad, obviously we’d like to get things back to normal,” Melvin said. “But in the meantime we just have to deal with it, do the best we can and understand that things are going to look different. And hopefully at some point in time it’s not, it’s back to normal, but it looks like we’re a ways off from that.”

“I mean everybody’s kind of worried,” shortstop Marcus Semien said of heading out on the road. “But you just have to follow the protocols and trust them.”

Semien emphasized that the A’s did not have any positive coronavirus tests in the most recently weekly reporting, but around baseball there were 29 positives among players and staff — 21 from the Marlins alone — and there has been some clear resentment toward the Miami team building up, compounded by the fact that, according to Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller, a league investigation found that Marlins players had been going out to restaurants and bars. Earlier in the week, Oakland third baseman Matt Chapman said, “Our team’s doing our part, beause we don’t want to be one of those teams like the Marlins that screws it up for everybody,” and on Friday the A’s emphasized that they’ve been following the protocols as carefully as possible when it comes to staying within the semi-bubble they’ve established.

“I think our guys have been doing a good job,” Melvin said. “I think guys are just more, ‘We need to stay in our rooms, go to the ballpark.’ We had an off-day (Thursday), I know I didn’t go anywhere. ... Then you read about what’s kind of going on and a lot of this has gone on with teams on the road. So we have to be really careful.”

ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that Commissioner Rob Manfred warned the players union the season will be shut down Monday if teams aren’t in full compliance with safety protocols, and Semien said during an afternoon video call Friday that he expected “things might get tightened up soon.” Before the A’s took the field in Seattle, MLB sent a four-page memo to clubs, according to Miller, requiring teams to identify a “compliance officer” to keep players out of bars, and re-emphasizing the need to avoid high-fives and other contact.

“We’re starting to see certain smaller outbreaks and we don’t know where they’re coming from yet,” Semien said. “All we can do is try and avoid everything we can while traveling, and in the clubhouse even.

“The talk we had was we basically have to assume the people around you have it even though we know that we don’t have any positive tests. But that will get you to act in a safe manner, I know that. It’s scary because a lot of the people who tested positive are showing no symptoms, so it’s just everyone’s trying to figure it out, not just in the baseball world but everywhere I think.”

Mike Fiers, who will start Saturday evening at Seattle, said he thought things were “pretty normal” on the trip and he was happy with the travel experience and the setup at the ballpark.

“I think everyone’s just being cautious no matter what, no matter where we are,” he said. “Everyone wants to do the right things to protect everyone around them and their team and the league itself.”

Does he feel safe, particularly with the recent positive tests? “Yeah I feel safe,” Fiers said. “I feel like just being smart about what we do and where you go and who you’re in contact with and — as safe as it’s going to be, I guess.”

Fiers and Semien emphasized that the A’s knew there would be certain sacrifices they’d have to make to ensure the season could be played in full — no nightlife, for instance, sticking to hotel rooms for two months. For a team expected to contend, that’s more than worth it.

Melvin has spoken to friends with some of the teams affected by postponements and, he said, “I think when you’re part of it and you’re one of the teams that’s being talked about, one of the teams that’s testing positive, it feels a lot different ... especially the Phillies-Marlins thing where you’re getting multiple positives and then the other team’s positive.”

How realistic is it that the season can be completed, with some teams already looking at a week of postponements?

“I really don’t know,” Melvin said. “I mean all we can do is take care of what we do and hopefully there aren’t any more cases. It’s unfortunate. You thought maybe the Marlins’ situation was unique and hopefully it stopped there. It hasn’t to this point.”

Susan Slusser is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @susanslusser


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