Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo began his pre-Opening Day Zoom call with reporters with an unfortunate statement, relayed below in full:
“We received our last round of COVID test results just early this morning, very early this morning, and we do have one positive test, so unfortunately, with MLB protocols, we’re working through our contact tracing, and instructing those close contacts to quarantine,” Rizzo explained.
One player tested positive in the round of testing which took place on March 29th, and five people (four players, one member of the staff) have since been identified as having been in what is defined as close contact with that player, so they all have to quarantine and will be unavailable for tomorrow’s season opener.
“As you know, we’re unable to disclose any addition information about who tested positive,” Rizzo went on.
“But we are following MLB protocols and CDC protocols, and working closely with the league to determine our next steps and it’s — there will be a lot of balls in the air until then.
“So that’s to start things off, unfortunately, on that note, and with that, I’m sure you have a lot of questions, because I know I do. I did.”
This is, obviously, not how anyone wanted to start things off. It will, Rizzo said, obviously impact the Nationals’ Opening Day roster as well, which seemed pretty much set before things changed today.
“We’ll certainly have to make some roster moves. There’s currently — there’s — we have five close contacts that are in quarantine,” the GM said.
“Four are players, and one is a staff member, so we will certainly have some roster decisions to make depending on how this all shakes out before Opening Day tomorrow.”
The Nationals made it through Spring Training without any positive tests, played their final game of the spring on Monday afternoon, and took a charter flight to the nation’s capital.
Rizzo said they were following protocols all spring, as they did last season, and they have followed them since they got the news early this morning, at around 1:10 AM.
How much freedom did the players have in the period between Monday and this morning?
“No more freedoms than we had all throughout Spring Training, other than that it was a travel day, after Monday’s game. That was the last time that Tier 1 players were tested.
“The results of that test were today, and that’s the one positive, [from] the results of the March 29th tests.
“We tested, we played that game that night, we got on the bus, and then the charter plane that took us back to D.C. ... and that’s the only interaction we had with each other that’s different than any other Spring Training day.”
That flight, of course, is now something that appears troublesome. Max Scherzer, who’s set to start tomorrow night’s game, flew home separately, but the majority of the team appears to have been on that flight (as well as the players headed for Fredericksburg, VA where the club’s Alternate Training Site will be once again this season).
“We’ve begun the tracing protocol as we’re reliant upon with MLB and that’s the results are we had five close contacts that fulfilled the scenario for quarantine,” Rizzo said.
“So, four players and one staff member, so we have been tested today as was scheduled.
‘We took a rapid test and the saliva MLB test, so we’ll know a little sooner rather than later on the rapid test, and the MLB test will be the typical 36 hours from now.”
What, if any, message did he deliver to the team after receiving the news this morning?
“We just — first and foremost we want to protect our players, their families, and our staff members, that’s always paramount on my mind,” Rizzo said.
“Then we’re going to put the best, most qualified group of players on the field to win a baseball game and the good thing about this year, it’s 162 [games].
“And again, a little hiccup, a little bump in the road, and we’re going to handle this like we handle everything else, and try to win as many games as we can, and when we get our guys back, give’em hell.”
Rizzo clarified that the five people he mentioned are in addition to the one who tested positive.
“Those five that I mentioned have had close contact with the person that tested positive and will be put into the quarantine protocol.”
But, he said, they do plan on playing tomorrow night’s game. What lies ahead for the players involved? Will they miss the opener? More? Even if they test negative?
“We’re still in the process of finding out exactly what their status is. They certainly will be out for tomorrow’s game, and we’re going to adjust from there depending on what MLB protocol dictates.”
The latest tests were today, and as of the time he spoke, Rizzo said, they haven’t gotten the results from those tests.
“We were tested this afternoon, as is protocol, and it will not change the one player who has tested positive or the five close contacts who are in quarantine under protocol.”