More than a dozen members of the Miami Marlins tested positive for the coronavirus after playing in Philadelphia, prompting the team to quarantine in the city and the Phillies to postpone a game against the New York Yankees.
The outbreak at the beginning of the shortened baseball season is a frightening reminder of how contagious the disease remains -- and raises the question of whether pro sports can be played successfully, even with strict safety protocols.
Nine Marlins players on the 30-man roster, two taxi squad players and two staff members tested positive, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because the results hadn’t been publicly disclosed.
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The Phillies hosted the Marlins for three games over the weekend. The Marlins were in the Phillies' visitors clubhouse where Phillies staff work. That is also the clubhouse that the Yankees would have used.
The league has not said for how long the Phillies-Yankees game would be postponed. The Yankees are staying in Philadelphia for now, and have their own clubhouse staff with the team there, the person said.
The Marlins' home opening game against the Baltimore Orioles, scheduled to be played inside Marlins Park in Miami, also has been canceled, according to sources.
In a statement, Major League Baseball said the league was conducting additional COVID-19 testing.
"The members of the Marlins’ traveling party are self-quarantining in place while awaiting the outcome of those results," the statement read in part. Members of the Phillies could be seen being tested at Citizens Bank Park on Monday.
A spokesperson for the Philadelphia Department of Health said confirmed positive players are isolated in their hotel rooms. Food is being provided to them via no-contact delivery.
"We were told of the original positive tests over the weekend, and the additional tests this morning," James Garrow, the health department spokesperson, said in an email.
The MLB is is charge of handling contact tracing for the teams and players, Garrow said.
The team's precarious health raised anew doubts about MLB's ability to finish the season during a pandemic. In Cincinnati, Reds second baseman Mike Moustakas and center fielder Nick Senzelfelt sick Sunday, a day after a teammate went on the injured list because he tested positive for COVID-19.
The Marlins' decision to postpone their flight home was made with family members in mind.
“We were more comfortable flying as a group later,” Marlins Manager Don Mattingly said. "We’re talking about these guys traveling back home to their families and their kids, and it’s the reason we want to be safe.”
Some Marlins players texted each other about the team's health issues before Sunday's game, but there was no talk of declining to play, shortstop Miguel Rojas said.
“That was never our mentality,” Rojas said. “We knew this could happen at some point. We came to the ballpark ready to play.”
Said Mattingly: “It’s fair to say guys are concerned about things. They want how they’re feeling about the situation to be heard. I think it's fair. We're talking about health.”
Right-hander Robert Dugger said he learned at 8:30 a.m. that he would filling in for Urena. Dugger said the Marlins are braced for the uncertainty that comes with trying to hold a season during a pandemic.
“There's nothing we can really do,” he said. “It's out of our control. We just do the best we can with the masks and social distancing and all that, and hope for the best.”
The Marlins played exhibition games at Atlanta on Tuesday and Wednesday against the Braves, who have since been without their top two catchers, Tyler Flowers and Travis d’Arnaud, after both players showed symptoms of the coronavirus.
Mattingly declined to say whether he thought the Marlins' health issues were related to the Atlanta stop. But he said he'll be happy to return to Miami, even though it's a hot spot for the pandemic.
“It feels safer in Miami than anywhere,” Mattingly said. “You feel safe at the ballpark; I feel safe with my surroundings going home. It’s a lot scarier on the road.”