The Marlins’ trip to Puerto Rico at the end of May has been scrapped because of concerns over the Zika virus. The two games against the Pirates on May 30-31 will now be played at Marlins Park.
Players on both the Marlins and Pirates had expressed concerns about the two-game series because of the virus. Friday’s announcement was made jointly by the Players Association and Major League Baseball.
“MLB and the Players Association did everything possible to adequately address the concerns raised by players and still play the games in Puerto Rico, but despite extensive efforts, they were unable to develop a workable solution,” the sides said in a statement.
Both teams met last week with officials for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after which players on the Marlins and Pirates voted unanimously to call off the trip, according to a baseball source with knowledge of the situation.
“You trust the process that the union and league is going to do what’s best for everyone,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “On the other side, I’m a little disappointed because I haven’t been to Puerto Rico in a while. You like going to different places. I think it’s fun to take baseball all over.”
Marlins pitcher Tom Koehler, the team’s union representative, said earlier this week that players became even more concerned after hearing the CDC official describe the situation in Puerto Rico and what precautions would need to be taken if the games had been played.
“It’s ironic that athletes are willing to go to Brazil to the Olympics and don’t want to come to Puerto Rico,” Puerto Rico governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla recently told local newspaper El Nuevo Dia.
The virus is spread through the bites of infected mosquitoes and can cause birth defects, and even death.
“There are a lot of precautions that would need to be taken,” Koehler said. “There was a recommendation to stay in the hotel room and kind of go from the hotel to the field on the bus. They told people if they had a pregnant spouse, that the spouse should not go on the trip.”
According to the joint statement released Friday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred “decided that the players who objected to the trip because of their specific family situations should not be forced to travel to Puerto Rico. Because too many regulars on both clubs fell into that category, commissioner Manfred had no choice but to relocate the games.”
The two games will now be played at Marlins Park, with 7:10 p.m. start times. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday.
PARTY ALL THE TIME
The Marlins are turning victory celebrations into masquerade parties.
“It’s crazy,” Marlins infielder Chris Johnson said. “I’ve never had this much fun.”
Following home wins, players are donning outrageous head masks, turning on a fog machine and strobe lighting, and dancing to the beat of loud music from a pair of oversized speakers set up in the middle of the clubhouse.
“We couldn’t wait to start winning more games at home to start doing that stuff,” Marlins infielder Miguel Rojas said.
Rojas credits the idea to Giancarlo Stanton, who bought head masks — horse heads, gorilla heads, fish heads, etc. — for all of his teammates.
“It’s crazy,” Johnson said. “It’s a little wild in here. You can’t see anything really. That first five minutes, guys are dancing, jumping around. It’s just a rage in here.”
Reliever Bryan Morris said the extracurricular fun is helping the Marlins play loose and win.
“At the end of the day, obviously, it’s a business,” Morris said. “At the same time, we’re playing a game.”
▪ First baseman Justin Bour is hopeful he can return to the lineup on Saturday. Bour, who dislocated his left pinky on Tuesday, was able to hit off a tee on Friday without pain.
▪ Saturday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (2-3, 7.25 ERA) vs. Philadelphia Phillies RHP Jeremy Hellickson (2-2, 4.88), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
▪ Sunday: Marlins LHP Justin Nicolino (2-0, 2.70) vs. Phillies RHP Aaron Nola (2-2, 2.93), 1:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.