CLEVELAND, Ohio — If Zach Plesac doesn’t think the Indians are serious about not only getting through the coronavirus season, but also trying to make something positive out if it, he knows now.
MLB security personnel caught Plesac returning to the Indians team hotel in Chicago early Sunday morning after going out with friends following his victory over the White Sox on Saturday afternoon. Plesac needed permission to leave the hotel, something he didn’t receive.
MLB notified the Indians, who talked to Plesac on Sunday morning. The team hired a car service for him and told him to drive back to Cleveland. They did not allow him to fly back with the team after Sunday night’s game against the White Sox for fear of him infecting the Indians traveling party.
Plesac has told people close to him that he knows he made a mistake and takes responsibility for it. It’s safe to say the Indians aren’t pleased with Plesac at the moment.
He issued the statement through the team: “I would like to apologize to my teammates, the entire Cleveland organization and all of our fans for my actions Saturday evening. I realize I made a poor choice to leave the hotel, which broke protocols and could have endangered other people. I understand that in these times of uncertainty, I need to be more vigilant and responsible and I am determined to earn my teammates’ forgiveness and get back to work.”
Chris Antonetti, president of baseball operations, was a key member of the MLB committee that established protocols to try and get teams safely through the 60-game season. They locked Franmil Reyes out of Spring Training II for three days for not wearing a mask at a Fourth of July party. They have a few of options with Plesac.
They could option him to their alternate training site at Classic Park in Eastlake or put him in the bullpen until they need him again in the rotation. They could fine him. Or they could do all three.
They’ll have time to sort things out because they won’t need a fifth starter until Aug. 22. Plesac will have to be quarantined for at least 72 hours and test negative for the virus twice in a 48-hour period. Plesac and his driver received point of care testing before they left for Cleveland.
The Indians players wrote their own code of conduct before the start of the season. Every team had to do it.
Mike Clevinger, one of Plesac’s closest friends, described it this way, “I think the thing we decided that was cool is that this isn’t going to be a ‘run to daddy’ kind of thing. We’re going to handle it in-house. It will be a player-discipline thing. We’re going to keep the coaches and front office kind of out of it.
“It just puts a little extra accountability (on players) because having that trust in your teammates is a big thing. It’s a big thing for being on the field. If you know your team doesn’t trust you off the field, how are they going to feel they can trust you when you get between the lines?”
Well, let’s just say Daddy has been alerted on this one. Antonetti told reporters after the Indians 5-4 win over Chicago on Sunday night that the team held a meeting about Plesac before the game. They decided they needed to concentrate one on thing at a time, that being the game, so whatever happens to Plesac will be addressed in the coming days.
But it’s clear this has gone beyond a players-only matter. One more thing, how does Plesac look Carlos Carrasco in the eye?
Plesac is one-fifth of the best starting rotation in the American League. He threw six scoreless innings Saturday against the White Sox in a 7-1 win. You just have to wonder, what was he thinking?
He grew up in Crown Point, Ind., which is about an hour’s drive from Guaranteed Rate Field. His family and friends couldn’t come to the game because fans aren’t allowed in the ballpark because of the coronavirus. But apparently they still made the trip and wanted to celebrate the win.
In this season, a season of adjustments as manager Terry Francona called it, sometimes the game isn’t the hardest thing. The hardest thing is saying no to friends, to putting the team and its goals for the season first.
Francona talked endlessly to the players about this. He said every time you might want to roll your eyes at a certain rule or protocol, use it to your advantage. It could give you and your team an advantage over the opposition.
MLB has seen big outbreaks of the virus with the Cardinals and Marlins — outbreaks that have shut down their seasons and endangered the health of their players and staff. Commissioner Rob Manfred and the MLBPA have implemented stricter rules regarding the conduct of teams’ behavior on an off the field. Each team was required to appoint a compliance officer.
In response to that news last week when the Indians were in Minneapolis, Antonetti said, “We’re all compliance officers.”
With one exception.