Dodgers manager Dave Roberts spends a ‘surreal’ opening day at home reminiscing

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LOS ANGELES — Dave Roberts began Thursday the way he began most of his days the past two weeks.

The Los Angeles Dodgers manager woke up and caught up on the news. He drank coffee and did a devotional. He ran his three dogs (a lab, rescue retriever and Cavalier King Charles) and avoided eating breakfast.

“I’ve been doing this intermittent fasting,” Roberts said in a phone interview Thursday. “I’m going to eat here shortly.”

Roberts, 47, spoke just after noon from his home in Cardiff. He had until 8 p.m. to gorge.

In an alternate universe, he would’ve been at Dodger Stadium preparing for opening day against the San Francisco Giants, going over the matchups and bullpens with a game on the television in the background.

There would’ve been loud introductions, a giant American flag, and a flyover with the teams along the baselines on a sublime sunny afternoon. First pitch would have been at 1:10 p.m. Clayton Kershaw would have thrown it, making his ninth career opening day start. Another pursuit to end the franchise’s championship drought, with perhaps the club’s best roster in decades, would have been underway.

In reality, however, Roberts was among the millions of Americans wondering when the coronavirus outbreak will reverse and normalcy will return.

“It’s very surreal,” Roberts said. “When it’s on the calendar for a year and you know March 26 is opening day and it’s not going to happen, it’s disappointing.”

The Dodgers have scattered — in Los Angeles, Arizona, and offseason homes elsewhere — since Major League Baseball suspended operations indefinitely March 13. Players are working out on their own, trying to make the best of the situation without the usual facilities available in consultation with the Dodgers’ training staff, waiting until they’re told to reconvene for a second spring training.

When that happens — if that happens — remains unknown as MLB and the players’ association continue discussions that ultimately depend decision-making by federal and local governments.

“I don’t think anybody can say anything with certainty right now — about anything,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Thursday in a conference call with reporters.

Friedman spoke with the media in a Zoom chat. Two weeks ago, Friedman didn’t know what Zoom was. Now his days are saturated with Zoom sessions, coordinating the various departments under his supervision. Even his son is using Zoom for school.

On the baseball front, Friedman didn’t have answers beyond emphasizing all parties involved want to play as many games as possible in 2020. He said almost everything is under consideration, including scheduled doubleheaders, shortening some games to seven innings to limit wear-and-tear, extending the season into the winter and canceling or postponing the All-Star game scheduled for July 14 at Dodger Stadium.

Roberts said he believes this is an opportunity for MLB to experiment, perhaps with expanded rosters and handling extra innings differently.

“I think everybody’s keeping an open mind right now,” Friedman said.

The last time Roberts wasn’t at a ballpark on opening day was when he was a player in 2009. The Giants unexpectedly released him in early March and ate the $6.5 million remaining on his contract. He spent opening day in Atlantis in the Bahamas with his family unsure about his future. He soon received an offer from NESN — the television home of the Boston Red Sox — to serve as a color analyst for road games. He took the job and never played again.

Eleven years later, Roberts was supposed to begin his fifth year as Dodgers manager Thursday. He would have preferred to be in uniform, but he’s been capitalizing on the time spent with his wife and two children. They’ve played poker. They’ve binge-watched “9-1-1” and sat through Hallmark movies. Intermittent fasting has trimmed his body and produced better energy.

On Thursday, his wife, Tricia, was going to make nachos and homemade ice cream to commemorate opening day. They had MLB Network going on the television, watching opening days from the past. He thinks opening day in 2020, whenever it happens, if it happens, will elicit strong emotions for a country on the rebound. The event will signal a sense of normalcy. He’s looking forward to it.


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