ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan reported this afternoon the Washington Nationals’ outfielder Juan Soto tested positive for COVID-19 in advance of tonight’s season opener in Nationals Park.
Soto, 21, missed the first two weeks of Spring Training 2.0 after coming into contact with someone who’d tested positive for the virus, and now has contracted it himself.
Washington Post writer Jesse Dougherty confirmed the news after Passan’s initial report, and Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo provided some information when he spoke with reporters moments ago.
“We put Juan Soto on the COVID IL today,” Rizzo explained. “He’s asymptomatic, he’s following all major league protocol, and as you know, he’s been tested multiple times throughout the Spring Training in-take season and has tested negative on all those occasions.
“So we will proceed when he has two negative tests and we will hopefully get him back on the field. So, that’s the major news of the day for the Nats.”
The Nationals, Rizzo said, are conducting contact tracing, and, “at this time there is nobody else unavailable because of the contact tracing.”
“We are casting a wide net as we said before, and at this point there is nobody else that is ineligible because of the contact tracing.”
Losing a player like Soto, however, hours before MLB’s planned 60-game season gets going with the Nationals and New York Yankees’ opener in the nation’s capital is a big blow.
“We feel bad for him,” Rizzo said.
“He’s a great player, and the fans want to see him and he affects our lineup. We don’t have as good a chance to be a great team like a New York Yankees as if we had him.
“But what can you do about it? You’ve got to move on and you’ve got to play ball. They’re going to play this game tonight, with or without Juan Soto.”
As for the club’s approach to replacing Soto for what will likely be two weeks?
“Next man up, let’s go,” Rizzo said.
“We’ve got to make our roster moves, we’ve got to contact everybody that we’ve got to contact, and of course our first priority is to take care of Juan and his family, and then we go in our baseball mode. We make roster moves, we make lineup changes, and we make strategic changes with the major league manager and the coaching staff.
“I think you have to take a business as usual approach to it. Just line any other injury during the season, so I think that’s kind of the way we kind of attacked it early this morning.”
Not a great way to start a season amidst a pandemic, and horrible news for Juan Soto...
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