Roster shuffle: Plans change in MLB because of health issues
FILE - In a Monday, March 2, 2020 file photo, Washington Nationals pitcher Joe Ross throws during the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the Miami Marlins, in West Palm Beach, Fla. Longtime infielder Ryan Zimmerman and pitcher Joe Ross are opting out of playing the 2020 season as Major League Baseball tries to get back amid the COVID-19 pandemic. General manager Mike Rizzo says the team is 100% supportive of Zimmerman and Ross deciding not to play.(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

PHOENIX (AP) — A small group of players, including Nationals slugger Ryan Zimmerman and Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond, have announced they plan to sit out this season. The Minnesota Twins have shuffled their on-field staff to protect the health of some of their older coaches.

As the sport lurches toward a late July start during the coronavirus crisis, roster flexibility and organizational depth will be key.

Zimmerman, who told The Associated Press last week he still was deciding whether to play this year, ultimately said having three young children, including a newborn, and a mother at higher risk because of multiple sclerosis factored into his decision.

“Given the unusual nature of the season, this is the best decision for me and my family,” Zimmerman said.

The 35-year-old Zimmerman, who has been with the Nationals since 2005, said he still is deciding on his future beyond this season. The two-time All-Star and 2009 Gold Glove winner has 270 career homers.

Desmond cited his family as one reason why he decided to stay home for the upcoming 60-game season. But the biracial slugger also mentioned a myriad of issues within baseball, including racism, sexism, homophobia and socioeconomic concerns.

“With a pregnant wife and four young children who have lots of questions about what’s going on in the world, home is where I need to be right now,” the 34-year-old Desmond wrote in an Instagram post. “Home for my wife, Chelsey. Home to help. Home to guide. Home to answer my older three boys’ questions about Coronavirus and Civil Rights and life. Home to be their Dad.”

Desmond, who hit .255 with 20 homers in 140 games last season, had been due $5,555,556 for the prorated share of his $15 million salary, part of a $70 million, five-year contract. He is owed $8 million next year, and his deal includes a $15 million team option for 2022 with a $2 million buyout.