Just a few days into an abridged major league baseball season, a coronavirus outbreak has left the Miami Marlins in quarantine, two games postponed and players and staff around the league worried about their safety.
The outbreak centered in Philadelphia is raising questions about whether the baseball season could swifty come to an end as the nation engages in a protracted battle with COVID-19.
The Marlins' outbreak following a three game series against the Philadelphia Phillies was the talk of baseball Monday, and Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez choked on his words as he discussed the situation. Martinez missed time last season because of a heart condition, and his team is scheduled to play in Miami this weekend.
“My level of concern went from about an eight to a 12. I mean this thing really hits home now,” Martinez said. “I got guys in our clubhouse that are really concerned, as well. ... I’m going to be honest with you: I’m scared.”
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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.
The virus flare-up led to the postponement of the Marlins’ home opener against Baltimore and the New York Yankees’ game at Philadelphia. The Yankees would have been in the same clubhouse the Marlins used last weekend.
The Yankees are staying in Philadelphia for now, and have their own clubhouse staff with the team there, the person said. The Marlins postponed their flight home Sunday night after their series finale against the Phillies.
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Major League Baseball removed both games from the schedule about eight hours before the scheduled first pitch, and said additional COVID-19 testing was being conducted. That included Phillies players being tested Monday.
The Orioles planned to return to Baltimore from Miami on Monday night, an indication their scheduled game Tuesday against the Marlins won’t take place at Marlins Park.
With the 60-game season barely underway, the Marlins’ outbreak raised anew questions about MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s plan for navigating the pandemic.
“Now we REALLY get to see if MLB is going to put players health first,” tweeted Los Angles Dodgers pitcher David Price, who opted out of playing this season. “Remember when Manfred said players health was PARAMOUNT?! Part of the reason I’m at home right now is because players health wasn’t being put first. I can see that hasn’t changed.”
Dr. Andrew Morris, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto, said the Marlins’ outbreak isn’t a surprise because Manfred’s plan was seriously flawed.
“Baseball is in huge trouble,” Morris said. “It makes me wonder if they are listening to the advice of experts or whether their experts are giving them good advice. This was not a plan anyone who knows what they are talking about would have conceived. It’s playing out like it was supposed to play out.”
If the Marlins continue their season, they’ll rely heavily on reinforcements from their training camp in Jupiter, Florida. Because there are no minor league games this season, teams are allowed to retain 60 players each, including a taxi squad of up to three players for every road trip, giving them immediate options to replace an ailing player.
The Marlins could bus from Philadelphia to Baltimore for scheduled games there Wednesday and Thursday.
Marlins CEO Derek Jeter released a statement saying the health of players and staff was his organization’s primary focus.
“Postponing tonight’s home opener was the correct decision to ensure we take a collective pause and try to properly grasp the totality of this situation,” Jeter said.
Miami pitcher Jose Urena was scratched from his scheduled start in Sunday’s game, and catcher Jorge Alfaro went on the injured list Friday. No reasons were given for the moves, and it was unclear when the Marlins received the latest positive test results.
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 showed symptoms of COVID-19.
The potential source of the outbreak was a topic around the majors Monday.
“I think it’s really important to trace how it occurred. That’s the one thing we need to know first before you jump to a lot of different conclusions," Los Angeles Angels manager Joe Maddon said. "If there was a breach of protocol by any of those players, then it’s more easily explainable, and if not, then it becomes more problematic. I would just wait and see, let them trace things back, try to figure out why it occurred, and then you start creating your conclusions or drawing your plan up to solve it.”
AP Sports Writers Ronald Blum in New York, David Ginsburg in Baltimore, Howard Fendrich in Washington, Rob Maaddi in Philadelphia, Janie McCauley in Oakland, California, and Associated Press Writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.
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