Dodgers' Mookie Betts fully prepared but has doubts on start of season

Major League Baseball released its schedule for an unprecedented 60-game season Monday, on a day when the sport's return felt particularly far-fetched. The Houston Astros, Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals canceled their workouts due to delays in test results and the Oakland Athletics have yet to incorporate position players because of a similar issue.

With that as a backdrop, Mookie Betts was asked about his chances of suiting up for the Los Angeles Dodgers this year -- or ever, given his pending free agency.

"I still have my doubts, just based off what's going on," Betts said. "I'm definitely preparing the same way; I'm fully expecting to play. But that doesn't mean there aren't doubts that kinda go on when the facts aren't in front of you."

Betts joined the Dodgers alongside David Price in a five-player trade in February and had four weeks with his new team before the coronavirus pandemic postponed the upcoming season. Three months later, after a contentious labor dispute and amid spiking coronavirus cases throughout the country, MLB and the MLB Players Association agreed on the framework of a season. But the first four days of what the league has called "Summer Camp" have already produced logistical issues with regard to COVID-19 testing, a problem exacerbated by the holiday weekend.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who will guide his players through an intersquad scrimmage late Monday afternoon, said his team has received all of its results from intake testing and that the testing "has been expedited, has been fluid" from his perspective.

Betts, however, is not as optimistic.

"I can't say I'm that confident because I haven't been shown yet," he said. "It's kind of tough to be confident in something that hasn't proved to be foolproof. There's not a whole lot really I can do; it's out of my control. But it's in someone's control, and whoever's control it's in has to find a way to make it work or this whole operation may not be able to work."

If the season is played, Betts will play alongside reigning National League MVP Cody Bellinger and will round out one of the deepest lineups in baseball history. But the status of the Dodgers' pitching staff got a little more uncertain in recent days, with Jimmy Nelson deciding to undergo back surgery and Price announcing that he would opt out, joining a list that has grown to include eight players.

Betts said he is "fully supportive" of Price's decision.

"He has to take care of himself. And if that's what he feels is best for him and his family, then I'm fully on board with it. He's one of the best teammates I've ever had, he's a competitor, plays the game the right way, great in the clubhouse. He's doing this for himself, and sometimes you have to do things for yourself."

Betts, 27, is widely regarded as baseball's best position player outside of Mike Trout and was seemingly in line to surpass Trout's record $426.5 million contract this offseason. But baseball's financial landscape has changed drastically because of the pandemic, creating uncertainty as to what Betts' market might eventually look like.

Players who choose not to play and are not considered high-risk individuals do not get compensation or service time for the 2020 season. Betts admitted that those circumstances played a factor in his decision to play, given that his free agency would have been delayed by a year if he had joined Price in opting out. Betts reportedly turned down a $300 million extension from the Red Sox last offseason, but said he does not regret it.

"Once I make a decision, I make a decision," Betts added. "I'm not going back to question myself. I don't worry about that. The market will be what the market is. We'll just kind of cross that bridge when we get there. But for right now, it's just the [health and safety] things that I'm worried about. That whole thing [free agency] is on the back burner."

The Dodgers will open their season against the San Francisco Giants July 23 on ESPN and will play their first two road series against the Houston Astros and Arizona Diamondbacks, likely playing indoors in two states that have experienced a significant spike in coronavirus cases. The Dodgers will host the Astros Sept. 12 to 13, but fans probably won't be allowed at Dodger Stadium by then and many wonder if MLB can even get that far with its schedule.

Betts, a four-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove Award winner, is among a growing list of players growing increasingly wary.

"We got camps being shut down and people going three and four days without tests," Betts said. "You just don't know what's going on. And I know it's hard. I'm not blaming or saying this, that and the other. It's hard. But somebody's gotta do it. And we have to just figure out the right way to do it."