Stephen Strasburg Describes 'Intense' Experience Going Through MLB COVID Protocols

Jesse Pantuosco
July 21, 2020 - 2:40 pm

The Nationals didn’t have far to go for Monday night’s “Summer Camp” game against their beltway rival, the Baltimore Orioles. Depending on the traffic volume, which unfortunately tends to be more “stop” than “go” around the nation’s capital, the 40-mile trek up I-95 is usually a fairly light lift, but Monday’s trip was different because it required five buses. That may seem excessive, but with teams adhering to social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic, that configuration figures to be the new normal across MLB.

“You get on the bus, and you have to wear a face mask the whole time,” Stephen Strasburg told the Associated Press, detailing his experience going through the league’s safety protocols ahead of Monday night’s start at Camden Yards. “Then you get in, and basically they temperature screen you. It's kind of tough to get a good temperature reading when it's 100 degrees outside.”

The reigning World Series MVP described the process as “intense” and acknowledged that pitching to an empty crowd—a stark contrast from the bright lights of last year’s Fall Classic—was “pretty strange.” But odd as it may be, Strasburg knows he has no choice on the matter. “It’s just what we’ve got to deal with,” said the ace right-hander, who notched six strikeouts while yielding a single earned run over five impressive innings in a 4-2 Nationals victory. “I think we're all competitors here, so the game out on the field doesn't really change.”

Besides the nightly challenge of jumping through COVID hoops just to get in the building, Strasburg thinks camaraderie, a strength of last year’s championship team, could suffer amid so many moving parts. “Everybody’s kind of sectioned off,” said Strasburg, who turned 32 on Monday. “Unfortunately, it's kind of challenging to build team chemistry in an environment like this right now."

Socially-distanced clubhouses and smaller busloads of 14 players or fewer will take some getting used to on Strasburg’s part, but at least MLB seems to be taking its safety measures seriously. Assuming he operates on normal, five-day rest, Strasburg should make his regular-season debut against the Yankees Saturday at Nationals Park. Max Scherzer will start the opener Thursday against Gerrit Cole with leading coronavirus expert Anthony Fauci to throw out the first pitch.

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