Mariners won't play games in Seattle in March

Washington governor gives update on coronavirus protocol (1:05)

Washington governor Jay Inslee says the state of Washington will prohibit gatherings that exceed 250 people in response to the coronavirus outbreak. (1:05)

The Mariners will move home games out of Seattle through the end of March, following the state of Washington's decision to ban large group events as a response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Seattle had been scheduled to open the season at T-Mobile Park with a four-game series against Texas from March 26-29 then host Minnesota in a three-game series from March 30 through April 1.

The Mariners said they are working with the commissioner's office on alternative plans.

"We're working through the alternatives right now," Mariners owner John Stanton said at the team's spring training complex in Peoria, Arizona. "We think the alternatives include playing in Seattle in an empty stadium, the alternatives include playing in the home park of our opponents, in this case the Rangers and the Twins. Or playing at a neutral park in Peoria.''

Stanton said he hoped to have an answer on where the team will play the first two series by Friday. He said it's unlikely the Mariners would play in Seattle in front of an empty stadium.

"As you can imagine, a lot of this is happening real time. So we're trying to figure it out as we go," he said.

Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager said conversations about the virus have dominated the clubhouse over the past few days. He added players would like some sort of resolution to the team's playing situation as soon as possible, but that everyone's health was most important.

"This is a major, major, major thing,'' Seager said. "This is a major event, not only in Seattle, but the world.''

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday announced a ban on all large gatherings in the three counties of the Seattle metro area through at least the end of March.

In a team statement issued Wednesday, the Mariners said, "While we hope to be back to playing baseball in Seattle as soon as possible, the health and safety of our community is the most important consideration."

The team said it will give credits to season-ticket holders for games missed and will automatically refund single-ticket buyers who purchased tickets through the Mariners.

Other Seattle teams are also affected. The Seattle Sounders of the MLS announced Wednesday that their March 21 match against FC Dallas at CenturyLink Field has been postponed. The XFL's Seattle Dragons will play their game against the LA Wildcats on Sunday at the same field but without fans.

About 45 minutes south of Seattle, Tacoma's home game against San Diego in the second-tier United Soccer League Championship on Wednesday night was to be played in an empty stadium.

Also, Everett's junior hockey team will play on March 20 at home without fans.

The University of Washington said it will restrict attendance at spring sporting events to staff and family of players.

NCAA President Mark Emmert announced Wednesday that all NCAA Division I basketball tournament games will be played with only essential staff and limited family in attendance. That will affect the men's first and second rounds that are being played at the Spokane Arena in eastern Washington, while early rounds of the women's tournament could end up being played on campus at Gonzaga, which is also in Spokane.

The Seattle area is dealing with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the country -- there have been 22 deaths from the same suburban nursing home and 29 total in the state. Inslee said Tuesday the state is preparing for potentially tens of thousands of cases, based on estimates of the spread of the disease.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the virus.

On Tuesday, Texas catcher Robinson Chirinos said he was "a little bit" concerned about traveling to Seattle for the opening series considering what was happening with the virus in the area.

"I know the season starts in Seattle, and we know how Seattle is right now," he said Tuesday.

Said Texas pitcher Corey Kluber: "I think we're just, everybody has to be open to what the experts say."

"None of us are experts. If I was trying to say whether something was good or bad, I'd be speaking without knowledge of the situation,'' he said Wednesday.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.