Ryan Brasier walked off the mound in Port Charlotte, Fla. March 11 feeling pretty good about things.
The 32-year-old had just turned in his fourth Grapefruit League outing, having gone through spring training giving up just one run over five innings. While 2019 was far from perfect for the reliever, all signs were pointing to better times. Then he walked off the field and started hearing the news.
"I found out about it when I walked in the clubhouse, some of the guys were talking about the NBA (shutting down). The next day we had an off day, I went fishing with a few buddies and my phone started blowing up and they were talking about MLB suspending spring training and a few days later I came home," Brasier remembered during a phone conversation with WEEI.com.
"My last one in Tampa Bay I felt like I was ready to roll. I’m hoping these three weeks, getting a couple of outings under my belt, it will be back to normal after that."
This is where Brasier is at. Banking on, like so many other major leaguers, he can pick up where he left off when COVID-19 closed everything down. A tall task, but as the pitcher points out, an important one to so many.
The reliever is making his way back up to Boston Tuesday prior to joining his teammates to get tested for the coronavirus Wednesday. Then, if all goes well, the plan is to start throwing around baseballs again at Spring Training 2.0 in Fenway Park Friday. While some doubted baseball would ever get to that point, and others are choosing not to partake (see Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman), it was of the utmost importance for guys like Brasier to find a way back.
"I’ve been ready to go since we got home," he said. "People ask, ‘Do you want to play 60 games?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah!’ The only guys who wouldn’t want to play are the ones making $20 million and most of those guys still want to play. I understand if you’re wife is pregnant and you want to stay home to be with them I get that, but this is an important 60 games for me.
"Hopefully, I can go out play 60 games and put up 25 zeros it will go a long way for me next year."
The reality for guys like Brasier and others is that these 60 games could make or break their careers.
In his case, he will be arbitration-eligible for the first time next offseason if he remains on the roster for the entirety of the abbreviated 2020 season. If he turns in a solid stretch, his career path continues down the right road. If there are the kind of bumps in the road he experienced at times in 2019? Different story.
"Sixty games … If you have 11 or 12 starts and you go out and go 9-1 and you do well people are going to be like, ‘Maybe he still has it.’ I’ll be 33 in August and I’ve told people close to me it’s really important for me to go out and throw well," Brasier said. "If I do I might get a little more than I would have got either way and if I don’t it will probably be tough to get a job."
He added, "I think players (get it). Most guys know the situation they are in. Even guys like J.D (Martinez). If J.D. goes out and hits 25 home runs in 60 games he’s going to get a ton more money. So there are a lot of guys, whether you’re making J.D. money or Ryan Brasier money this season is important for whether we like it or not."
Brasier is confident heading into this sprint, but he is joining most in bracing for the unknown.
The rush to be ready and then more urgency to be good? This isn't really how baseball players are built.
"One hundred percent," Brasier said when such a notion was surfaced.
"I think you’re going to see a lot of guys get hurt. I don’t know if it will be major but you are going to have a lot of guys in spring training who are going to need a few days."
So be it. This is what all players -- rich and not-as-rich -- will be dealing with.
And while players like Brasier are preparing for potentially two of the most important months of their professional lives they will be taking tests, staying socially distant, trying not to spit and, in some cases, where they can find a two- or three-month lease for an apartment in Boston.
There is baseball ... "As far as my arm and stuff, I feel pretty good. But there is a difference in throwing at a high school out in the country off of a turf mound as opposed to pitching against guys in a real game. It will take a couple of outings to get back to 95-96 but I don’t think it will be a problem getting there," he said.
And then there is everything else ... "Not being able to do what I want to do when I want to do it," Brasier added when asked what he is most wary of in the coming months.
Through it all, as much as society is desperate for baseball, and owners are yearning for revenue, there is that other reality that the Red Sox reliever and plenty of others represent: the players need results.