Wed, Mar 31, 2021
By Jim Vassallo (Veri.bet Writer)
Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo announced on Wednesday that the team will be without five players and one staff member to open the 2021 season after a player tested positive for COVID-19.
"We are following MLB protocols and CDC protocols and working closely with the league to determine our next steps," Rizzo said. "It will be a lot of balls in the air until then."
The Nationals were still in Florida finishing up Spring Training when the positive test was conducted on Monday. The results were sent to the organization around 1 AM this morning after the team had returned home.
The Nationals are slated to host the New York Mets on Thursday, April 1, for Opening Day.
The four players and one staff member were exposed to the positive case on the flight home from Florida. It is unknown if these six people will be available for games after April 1.
The health and safety policy in place from the MLB requires the positive player to isolate for at least 10 days. The players must also be monitored by the club, receive proper care, and receive clearance by the team's physician and the joint COVID-19 committee formed by the league before returning to the team.
None of the players or the staff members have been identified by the team.
"We'll have some roster decisions to make depending on how this all shakes out before Opening Day," Rizzo said. "This is just a small blip on our radar screen. We're going to handle it and take it in stride."
There were no positive test results during the team's six weeks in Florida and no one on the team has been vaccinated yet.
The Nationals' starting pitcher for Thursday night's game, Max Scherzer, traveled back to Washington with his family and was not on the plane.
"There's less unknowns," Scherzer told MLB on ESPN Radio. "... 2020 was a good learning experience for all of us in knowing that, 'Hey, once it starts going, you kind of know how this ends.' Now we have that information; it's not, I would say, last year when you started hearing a lot more positive tests going around that you just felt like it was way more widespread. Hopefully, this one is contained as well as we can because of all of the protocols we have in place now. You know everything that we do, hopefully, we contained it, and hopefully, it's not a big deal."
The Nationals were scheduled to host practice in Washington on Wednesday but it was canceled due to the inclement weather. The team underwent a second round of COVID testing in the afternoon. The tests were a combination of saliva tests and rapid tests.
Rizzo noted that there are players available at the team's alternate training site in Fredericksburg, Virginia, that can be brought to Washington.
"This is the reason you have 60 good players in the organization, to kind of prepare for these type of scenarios,'' he said.
If you were planning on placing a bet on the Nationals to win on Opening Day, you might want to reconsider, even with Scherzer on the mound.