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“There’s still a part of me that isn’t quite sure we will actually play games,” Braun said, per Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times. “I’m optimistic that we will play games, but obviously if we look at what’s happening in the country, the COVID numbers are not good. There are a significant number of athletes who have tested positive, which is indicative of the overall numbers in our country right now.”
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, at least 40 players and team personnel tested positive for COVID-19 even before there was an agreement to restart the season.
The national numbers also continue to rise, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting over 40,000 new cases in four straight days recently, a trend that hadn’t previously occurred since the disease first hit the United States.
Players are set to report for Spring Training 2.0 starting Wednesday with testing taking place 48 hours before they arrive.
Several players have already announced they will opt out, starting with Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Mike Leake, per Steve Gilbert of MLB.com. The Washington Nationals announced Joe Ross and Ryan Zimmerman will opt out of the season as well, while Colorado Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond explained his decision not to play in a lengthy Instagram post:
Braun said he will play, partially because this year could be his last in the majors.
“I do have three young children, so certainly it’s a possibility,” he said of retirement. “We’ll see how this year goes and see where I’m at physically.”
The 36-year-old could be a free agent after this season if the Brewers decline his $15 million mutual option for 2021. He has spent his entire 13-year MLB career in Milwaukee, earning six All-Star selections to go with a Rookie of the Year award and MVP award in 2011.