Washington Nationals pair Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross have joined Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Mike Leake in opting out of the 2020 MLB season.
Zimmerman and Ross, who both won World Series rings with the Nationals in 2019, and veteran Leake will not play due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
The 2020 MLB regular season is scheduled to begin on July 23 or 24 and has been shortened to 60 games because of the COVID-19 crisis and bitter negotiations between the league and the players' union.
In a statement, Washington's general manager Mike Rizzo said: "Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross have decided not to participate in the 2020 season for the personal health and safety of themselves and their loved ones.
"We are 100 per cent supportive of their decision to not play this year. We will miss their presence in the clubhouse and their contributions on the field."
Zimmerman, 35, explained his decision was motivated by family and he had not definitely decided to retire from the sport.
"After a great deal of thought and given my family circumstances - three young children, including a newborn, and a mother at high risk - I have decided not to participate in the 2020 season," he said in a statement released through agency CAA.
"Everyone knows how much it means to me to be part of a team, and I will miss that camaraderie dearly this year. Of course, I would love to pursue back-to-back titles. I cannot speak for anyone else, but given the unusual nature of the season, this is the best decision for me and my family, and I truly appreciate the organisation's understanding and support.
"To be clear, I am not retiring at this time. I have not decided on my future in baseball past 2020. But this year I'll be staying safe at home and pulling as hard as anyone for the guys to defend our championship."
Zimmerman and Ross followed in the footsteps of Leake, whose agent Danny Horwits confirmed he was the first player to publicly opt out.
Leake had been in consideration for a spot in the back end of Arizona's starting rotation that includes Robbie Ray, Merrill Kelly and the newly acquired Madison Bumgarner.
The Diamondbacks acquired Leake from the Seattle Mariners at last season's trade deadline, and the veteran right-hander is scheduled to be a free agent next offseason.
Leake broke his left wrist during spring training in February, but he has since recovered and appears more concerned with protecting his family from COVID-19.
"During this global pandemic, Mike and his family had many discussions about playing this season," the statement said. "They took countless factors into consideration, many of which are personal to him and his family.
"This was not an easy decision for Mike. He wishes the best of luck and health to his Diamondback team-mates this season and he's looking forward to 2021."
Leake has a career record of 105-98 in 296 starts with a 4.05 ERA, playing for the Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants, St Louis Cardinals, Mariners and Diamondbacks.
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