Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Mike Leake has become the first known player to opt out of the 2020 season due to concerns about the coronavirus.
Shortly after Leake’s announcement, Washington Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman and teammate Joe Ross said they have decided not to play this season.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said Zimmerman and Ross opted out “for the personal health and safety of themselves and their loved ones,” adding the team supports their decisions.
Zimmerman said in a statement his family situation factored into his decision. His mother is at high risk for complications from the coronavirus because she has multiple sclerosis, and he has three young children, including a newborn.
“I have a 3-week-old baby,” Zimmerman said. “My mother has multiple sclerosis and is super high-risk; if I end up playing, I can pretty much throw out the idea of seeing her until weeks after the season is over. There’s a lot of factors that I and others have to consider. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer; it’s everybody’s individual choice.”
As part of his announcement, the 35-year-old Zimmerman said he’s not retiring.
Ross is a 27-year-old right-hander with five years of major league experience, all with Washington.
Leake said he decided to pull out of the season after discussions with his family.
“During this global pandemic, Mike and his family had many discussions about playing this season,” Leake’s agent, Danny Horwits, said in a statement Monday. “They took countless factors into consideration, many of which are personal to him and his family. After thorough consideration, he has chosen to opt out of playing in 2020. This was not an easy decision for Mike. He wishes the best of luck and health for his Diamondback teammates this season and he’s looking forward to 2021.”
Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen also said two players on Arizona’s 60-man roster tested positive for COVID-19, as did another player not in Arizona.
The 32-year-old Leake started 10 games for Arizona after being traded from Seattle for outfielder Jose Caballero and cash in a 2019 deadline deal. Leake went 3-3 with a 4.35 ERA with Arizona and earned his first AL Gold Glove Award for his time with the Mariners.
Leake was listed on the Diamondbacks’ 60-player pool released earlier Monday, but will be moved in a later transaction. He was expected to compete for a spot in the Diamondbacks’ starting rotation during the 60-game season.
“It definitely impacts us,” Hazen said. “Certainly, he’s a good major league starting pitcher. To what extent it’s going to impact us, it’s hard to say. I think I would probably have a different answer if it was over 162 (games) as opposed to if it was over 60.”
Major League Baseball is allowing players with preexisting medical conditions or compromised immune systems to opt out of the 2020 season, but Hazen would not elaborate whether Leake falls under that category.
The Diamondbacks also will be without two international prospects due to travel issues during the pandemic: outfielder Kristian Robinson of the Bahamas and Brazilian right-hander Bo Takahashi.
Right-hander Silvino Bracho was not on Arizona’s 60-man roster to start the season after he suffered elbow stiffness while trying to rehabilitate from Tommy John surgery last year.