Red Sox: Players could struggle to stay in shape during lockdown

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 12: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox throws to first base to force an out in the second inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 12, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kathryn Riley /Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 12: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox throws to first base to force an out in the second inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 12, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kathryn Riley /Getty Images) /

Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts describes the challenges of working out and staying prepared with an uncertain timeline to return to baseball.

MLB players, they’re just like us! At least the line has drawn closer during this period of isolation while we distance ourselves from society during a global pandemic. Quarantine has forced players to alter their daily routines, a concern that Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts addressed in a recent interview with GQ.

It’s more difficult to maintain a schedule when you have nowhere to be for the foreseeable future. Bogaerts no longer feels the need to wake up for 8 a.m. workouts. Instead, he rolls out of bed and fires up the PlayStation.

A healthy breakfast will be followed by an afternoon workout but it’s not the strenuous exercise he puts his body through during a season. Bogaerts has been following the workout routines that the Red Sox have sent him just to stay in shape but it’s to try to maintain rather than to get stronger.

He’ll throw a baseball around with his twin brother but that’s about the extent of the baseball activities Bogaerts can do from his home from Aruba. Most players will struggle with similar limitations no matter where they are located since they don’t have access to a baseball field or even batting cages while they are quarantined at home.

Players need to stay in shape but they also don’t want to ramp up to game shape too early. That’s a challenge when they have no idea when – or if – the season will begin.

"“This is a crazy time and we don’t know if we’re even going to have a season,” Bogaerts told GQ. “I don’t want to be the one who’s not doing anything, and then they tell you the season is starting and I’m so far behind. It’s really tough mentally to try and stay in shape.”"

Remember when the NBA returned from a lockout in 1999 and Shawn Kemp ballooned to 30 pounds heavier than his previous playing weight? He was hardly the only player who struggled to stay in shape while basketball took an indefinite hiatus.

MLB is now faced with a similarly uncertain situation only players don’t have the luxury of gathering for group workouts or playing ball in the gym. Lockouts based on financial disputes are less restrictive than lockdowns due to social distancing when it comes to preparing for a season.

It’s a challenge for baseball players under these circumstances to figure out how to pace their workout routines. Bogaerts is trying to stay optimistic that the 2020 season will eventually begin but he admits that it can be hard to stay motivated when you know the season could be canceled.

"“I want to play for sure, but it’s such a tough time and I know we’re dealing with a very serious situation, said Bogaerts. “To be honest, it’s hard to do workouts because you’re like, are we even going to play? In the off-season, you work out and look forward to February reporting day. You know you have to be ready for that specific day. Now, you don’t have anything like that. We’ll have to wait and see when the experts say it’s the right time to play.”"

Bogaerts almost certainly isn’t alone in these concerns. This is an unprecedented situation so we can only imagine what the impact will be but there is bound to be some negative consequences.

If baseball returns this year, players will first need to return to camp to resume spring training. You can’t rush them out to the field for regular season games after months of inactivity. Hitters need to find their timing at the plate and pitchers need to build up their arm strength.

Even with a few weeks to prepare, we can’t count on players firing on all cylinders out of the gate. This has been anything but a normal offseason. Players typically know the date they need to be ready. Not only are they in the dark about when they will report to camp, their ability to train is restricted while they are isolated in their homes.

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Expect this to lead to some sloppy baseball when the game finally returns. There will be players who struggled to remain disciplined with their workout routines during the lockdown. Players who haven’t been able to work on the fundamentals of the game are bound to make more mistakes. Bogaerts mentioned how mentally draining these conditions can be and the challenge to stay motivated to workout. That’s not a switch everyone can suddenly turn back on when MLB gives the green light to return.