For Dan Dallas, the fourth time was the charm.
His fourth spring training with the San Diego Padres had him in the best baseball shape of his life.
"My curveball’s feeling pretty good," he told me after throwing in Hamburg last week. "Changeup’s the best its ever felt. When I got down there (to spring training), I felt pretty good. In the bullpens we were working on a few things, as far as delivery, curveball grip, stuff like that. The past four years, it’s the most ready I’ve ever felt honestly."
That's when news of the Coronavirus outbreak hit Peoria, AZ, where the Padres hold spring training.
"When we first heard, we didn’t know to what extreme it would be. How long?" Dallas wondered. "We thought maybe a week or so. Maybe a couple of days, get us out of the complex so they can clean it up. Things like that. We heard at least 2-3 weeks. After that, we’re reading everything on Twitter. You don’t know if it’s going to be May, June or July. Honestly, some players are hoping we play at all this year."
Dallas has worked his way through the Padres system since they made him a seventh-round draft choice in 2016. The Canisius graduate spent the bulk of last year with the Tri-City Dust Devils, San Diego's short-season single-a affiliate in Pasco, WA. He was named a Northwest League all-star while recording a 1.41 ERA over 32 innings. Dallas doesn't know where he'll report next, nor does he know when he'll find out.
"We have absolutely no idea when we’re going to return. What the season’s going to hold," he says. "If they’re going to have a return at all - that’s the thing. With everything up in the air, it’s a hard part to completely grasp and get a hold of."
While Dallas would prefer to be with his teammates, he’s found some positives from the cancellations and uncertainty.
"It’s honestly just an extended offseason. I look at it as ‘hey, get your arm healthy. Get feeling better.’ I almost want to be in midseason form by the time I get that call to go back. You can look at it and take every negative from it, but there’s also a lot of positives I think coming out of it. Most minor league baseball players are looking at it as ‘hey, this is a time to get better.’"
Unless MLB says differently, it seems like Dallas and other minor-leaguers will have plenty of time to do that.