MLB could not make it out of the first weekend of regular-season games before facing its most significant COVID-19 challenge.
The Marlins learned Saturday night that from tests administered Friday three players had tested positive for the virus, The Post has learned. An additional test was administered team-wide Sunday before a game against the Phillies in Philadelphia, with results due by early Monday.
Thus, the Marlins changed their plans from flying back to Miami after the game until Monday, when they are scheduled to play their home opener against the Orioles. The results will determine if other members of the Marlins traveling party have to stay quarantined in Philadelphia.
Marlins catcher Jorge Alfaro already was placed on the injured list Friday before the Miami-Philadelphia series began without a public reason given (players must give permission for teams to announce that they have tested positive or shown signs of COVID-19). Sunday’s scheduled Marlins starter Jose Urena was scratched and two position players also were not available. Earlier this month, Miami placed outfielders Lewis Brinson and Matt Joyce on the IL without further explanation.
After MLB and the Marlins learned of the positive tests, tracing was done to determine who those players had been in contact with and the other players were questioned about symptoms and it was decided to play Sunday’s game. Miguel Rojas, one of the Marlins’ team leaders, said all 30 Marlins met and “There was never a thought that we would not play.”
Marlins manager Don Mattingly said, “We never considered not playing [Sunday]. We are taking risks every day.”
The concern remains that players can be asymptomatic spreaders before tests reveal the virus. Plus, the potential contagion is not limited to just one team — the Phillies incurred greater risk Sunday, too — and the risk grows of infecting family.
“It’s fair to say that guys are concerned,” Mattingly said. “We are talking about health. We are talking about these guys traveling back to their families and kids and we want to be safe. They have a voice and we are going to listen.”
To try to weather lost players, MLB and the players association agreed to allow teams to have a 60-player pool from which to choose during the season (with the non-active players working out at a satellite site) and teams on the road taking a three-man taxi squad that must include a catcher. Mattingly mentioned that MLB should consider expanding the taxi squad so that teams in a scramble have more options at their disposal.
But what is the critical mass of absences that would move MLB to cancel a game — or more?
The sport is used to dealing with player loss. Since the season began Thursday, star pitchers Ken Giles, Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber, Stephen Strasburg and Justin Verlander were all reported injured. Perhaps that is normal. Perhaps it is a result of a second, but abbreviated training camp to ready for the shortened season. But pitching injuries, in particular, are familiar.
What the Marlins are enduring is unfamiliar. The same for the Reds, who had Matt Davidson show a positive test on Saturday, then on Sunday (without explanation) placed Mike Moustakas on the injured list and scratched Nick Senzel from the lineup. It is not revealed whether players tested positive or just showed symptoms and caution was being used.
MLB’s testing numbers have been promisingly low to date, but none has been released publicly since teams started traveling for regular-season games, which entails — among other things — flights and hotels. It also means a team from a current COVID-19 epicenter such as Miami will travel to other cities and host games in its city with virus numbers in south Florida soaring. A major reason Canada refused to allow the Blue Jays to play their home games in Toronto was because of concerns about teams from hot spots traveling into the country. Pennsylvania forbade the Blue Jays from playing home games in Pittsburgh over the same concerns.
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