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Colorado’s Desmond won’t, and Isotopes can’t, play in 2020

FILE – In this July 29, 2019, file photo, Colorado Rockies’ Ian Desmond follows the flight of his triple off Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Kenta Maeda in the second inning of a baseball game in Denver. Desmond plans to sit out this season to be with his family and help the youth baseball program in his hometown in Florida. The 34-year-old Desmond wrote on Instagram that the “COVID-19 pandemic has made this baseball season one that is a risk I am not comfortable taking.” (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

DENVER – The Colorado Rockies didn’t see this one coming.

On the same day GM Jeff Bridich said “at this point we expect everyone to be there” for the Rockies and MLB’s belated season, highly paid outfielder Ian Desmond announced he has chosen to not play in 2020.

In a post on his Instagram account, Desmond made references both to the coronavirus pandemic and social equality as his reasoning.

“If baseball is America’s pastime, maybe it’s never been a more fitting one than right now,” Desmond said.

Desmond has played in 95, 160 and 140 games in three seasons with the Rockies. Last season he hit .255 and 20 home runs with an OPS of .788, fifth on the team. He’s the only Rockies player to say he won’t play in 2020.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made this baseball season one that is a risk I am not comfortably taking,” he wrote.

Desmond also suggested his well-publicized struggles with the Rockies could be the result of how the club itself has approached his time here.

“It’s no coincidence that some of my best years came when I played under Davey Johnson, whose No. 1 line to me was, ‘Desi, go out there and express yourself.’ If, in other years, I’d just allowed myself to be who I was – to play free and the way I was born to play, would I have been better?” he said. “If we didn’t force Black Americans into white America’s box, think of how much we could thrive.”

He has a five-year, $70M contract.

MAKING IT OFFICIAL: Minor League Baseball and the Albuquerque Isotopes released long-expected statements Tuesday confirming cancellation of the 2020 season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are incredibly saddened by what has happened,” ‘Topes GM John Traub said in a statement. “… We now turn our focus to 2021 and the hopes of playing a full season next year.”

The Isotopes will be contacting season-ticket, suite and game-plan ticket holders in the coming days. Information on ticket refunds and Tuesday’s full statement are available on the team’s website, abqisotopes.com.

The Isotopes’ parent club, the Colorado Rockies, will use Isotopes Park as a satellite training site for its taxi squad beginning in late July. Bridich said in a media webinar Tuesday that players would likely start arriving a few days before the scheduled July 23-24 start of MLB’s abbreviated season.

Bridich, who also discussed Desmond’s decision to opt out and the club’s signing of outfielder/potential designated hitter Matt Kemp to a minor league contract, admitted planning for the upcoming season is an ongoing challenge.

“It’s a day-to-day challenge and the virus is in control,” he said. “We’re trying to make the very best of a weird situation. Without competition and without daily games, we’ll try to keep players as engaged mentally as physically as they can be in sort of an odd environment. We’re grateful to have a safe environment at Isotopes Park and that the Isotopes staff will help us make it happen.”

The Journal’s Ken Sickenger contributed to this report.

 

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