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Wire Taps: Washington Nationals scramble after positive COVID test; Nats under radar going into 2021 + more...

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Catch up on the last 24 hours in Nationals news while you wait for the start of tonight’s season opener...

Nationals Park Media Tour Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Yes, it will “only” be 5,000 fans in Nationals Park tonight for the season opener, but it’s really a lot better than playing in an empty park says GM Mike Rizzo, who spoke with reporters on a Zoom call yesterday in which he discussed some bad news (a positive COVID test and five caught up in contact tracing); and the good news (baseball is back!). Rizzo said that even a crowd of 1500 or so in FITTEAM Ballpark this spring was a significant difference.

“I’ll tell you one thing, even the small amount of fans make the biggest difference. We had about 1,500 max at our Spring Training games and it made a whole lot of difference to the players and the feel of the game,” Rizzo said.

“No canned applause and canned noise, and stuff like that. It did make a lot of difference.”

There will be fans in D.C., and there will be safety protocols to follow, but the hope is that even after yesterday’s bad news, things will go well in the season opener. Is it a return to some semblance of normalcy?

“I think these 5,000 people here will make a big difference, and like I said in Spring Training, once you get through the intake process and you walk into the baseball area of the ballpark, it was kind of business as usual,” Rizzo said, “but then when you leave, again you have to be careful of where you go and what you do and that type of thing, so because we have this COVID thing over us, I think Opening Day, it will be a little bit more normal than it was last year, but certainly a long way from normal for the 38 years that I’ve been having Opening Days.”

Enjoy your Opening Day (Night). Go read your links...

NATS BEAT:

Positive Test:

Nationals Opening Day impacted by positive COVID test - (MLB.com)
"The test that yielded a positive result was conducted Monday, the final day of Spring Training. There previously had been no positive tests among the Nationals this spring."

Nationals player tests positive for coronavirus, four others in quarantine - (WaPost)
“Rizzo did not identify the player, disclosing only that the Opening Day roster will be affected by the positive test and contact tracing.”

Nationals receive one positive coronavirus test on eve of opening day - (Washington Times)
"The five players will miss the season opener against the New York Mets, although Rizzo didn’t identify who had been impacted by the coronavirus."

Nationals are contact tracing on positive coronavirus test ahead of Opening Day - (NBC Sports Washington)
"Just one day before the Nationals kick off their 2021 season against the New York Mets, general manager Mike Rizzo announced that a player has tested positive for COVID-19."

Max Scherzer on Nationals positive coronavirus test: 'We have to overcome it' - (NBC Sports Washington)
"The four players, plus a staff member, won't be available on Thursday following a player's positive test stemming from an team chartered flight on Monday."

Other Nats Stories:

Mike Rizzo is just fine with the Nationals under the radar to start 2021 - (NBC Sports Washington)
"When the 2021 season begins Thursday, Washington will not be counted among the World Series favorites."

The starting rotation remains Washington’s foundation — and its greatest hope - (WaPost)
“Just one month ago, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Jon Lester and Joe Ross all looked like they might be the worst-case versions of themselves when the Nats opened their season Thursday night at home against the New York Mets.”

Five storylines to follow this MLB season - (Washington Times)
"When teams take the field Thursday for opening day, a long winter of changes will give way to a new season — this time of the 162-game variety."

Scherzer, Nats still not talking contract ahead of opening day - (MASN)
"And when asked to clarify previous comments that those discussions could take place directly between Scherzer and Nationals ownership, Rizzo offered: 'We’ve had no conversations with Max about an extension.'"

The Washington Nationals' defense could be a 2021 weakness - (WaPost)
“Opening Day is virtually synonymous with optimism. But man, am I worried about the Washington Nationals’ defense.”

Ryan Zimmerman wife Washington Nationals Opening Day DC - (wusa9.com)
"The wife of longtime Washington Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman, Heather may be a huge reason why he decided to come back for his 16th season."

Strasburg ready to get back to MVP level - (WJLA)
"2021 is going to be different for the Washington Nationals. For starters, Stephen Strasburg will be healthy ready to start the season."

NATIONAL(S) BEAT:

MLB preview 2021: NL East GMs break down MLB's toughest race - (Yahoo!Sports)
"What would it take for you to consider 2021 successful for the Nationals? Rizzo: “Our goal is to win the World Series each and every year, we try to put a team on the field that gives us the opportunity to do that."

MLB awards predictions for 2021 - (MLB.com)
"NL MVP: Juan Soto, Nationals (29 votes) - He's 22 years old but hits like Ted Williams. He might not just be the best young hitter in the game, but the best hitter in the game, period."

MLB opening day: Nationals lose 5 players due to COVID-19 - (Yahoo!Sports)
"The Washington Nationals experienced some 2020 deja vu on Wednesday, when general manager Mike Rizzo revealed that an unidentified player had tested positive for COVID-19."

Nationals Player Tests Positive for Virus Before Opening Day - (The New York Times)
"Because of contract-tracing rules, four other players and a staff member will be held out of Washington’s season opener against the Mets on Thursday."

Nationals down five players for opening day after a COVID positive - (USA TODAY)
"The positive tests comes after a spring in which just 33 players tested positive through both intake and monitoring testing..."

Ballpark of the Palm Beaches GM says spring training was 'home run' - (WPTV)
"Spring training has come and gone but ballpark leaders say this season, while different than any before, was a 'textbook success.'"

NL EAST UPDATES:

Philadelphia Phillies manager Joe Girardi thinks this opening day will be a good different - (Philadelphia Inquirer)
"Girardi says the start of this season feels different and he's hoping the results at the end also are different."

Francisco Lindor's no-deal takes air out of Opening Night | Newsday
WASHINGTON — April 1, 7:09 p.m. It’s been circled on the Mets’ calendar for what seems like decades, not merely months. The exact moment real baseball, a game that actually counts, begins new. So why

Marlins celebrate the renaming of their home stadium to loanDepot park - (Miami Herald)
"Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter talks to the media alongside loanDepot CEO and Founder Andrew Hsieh after announcing the renaming of the Marlins’ home stadium in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood on Wednesday, March 31, 2021."

10 predictions on the Braves entering the 2021 season - (AJC.com)
"Some of these will come to fruition. Some won’t materialize. Some will be absolutely laughed at by October. But here are 10 of my predictions..."