Excitement, uncertainty surrounds Pittsburgh Pirates return to PNC Park

Excitement, uncertainty surrounds Pittsburgh Pirates return to PNC Park

PITTSBURGH — With the official announcement of Major League Baseball’s return, Pirates first-year manager Derek Shelton notices a buzz among his team.

“It’s what these guys do for a living, and they’ve been sitting on the sidelines for a while waiting for the day everyone says, OK, here we go,” said Shelton in a Zoom interview Wednesday. “I think they’re probably overly excited and ready, but I think they’re also overly cautious and optimistic.

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“If you pay any attention to what’s going on in the world, and how we’re living, we have to take certain precautions. That’s why the guidelines and protocols are so important.”

The list of MLB’s guidelines and protocols is extensive. Players who test positive for COVID-19 and want to return to play must test negative for the virus twice at least 24 hours apart, be fever free for 72 hours and take an antibody test.

Baseballs used in a single-day period must be sanitized, and not re-used for at least five days. Players are not allowed to spit, chew sunflower seeds, and pitchers aren’t allowed to lick their fingers before preparing to throw the ball.

Pitcher Jameson Taillon joked how it’ll be an interesting learning process trying to remember all of the new guidelines.

“I’ve caught myself a few times trying to lick my fingers before I throw the ball,” said Taillon. “That’s gonna be really hard for guys. Obviously not spitting on the field, sunflower seeds and stuff, that’s gonna be a big change. I mean we’re gonna have to have the rules in front of our face at all times because the handbook is like 108 pages.”

Taillon talked at length on the Zoom call about the negotiations between the MLBPA and the league to get the season up and running. At the end of the day, he said the team is just happy to be back playing the game they love.

“The guys are excited to return and play baseball,” said Taillion. “Guys really want to get back on the field. Hopefully both sides learned something, and we can put that in the past and come together to bring each other alongside on the journey instead of making it one side against the other.”

As the team prepares for the shortened 60-game season, Shelton noted the playing field is about as level as it can be.

“Everyone’s coming into it on equal footing,” said Shelton. “Obviously everybody’s coming into it with different rule changes. I like where we’re at. I like our good young core of players, and I’ve said that from the beginning. You play really good for a month and you’re gonna put yourself into a situation.”

Spring training is set to start July 1 at PNC Park.

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