“In total we have three confirmed positives and one likely positive, and they’re all players,” GM Mike Rizzo told reporters in announcing additional positive test results a day after the Washington Nationals learned that one player tested positive in the final round of COVID testing at Spring Training in West Palm Beach, FL earlier this week.
That one “likely” positive, the General Manager and President of Baseball ops in D.C. said, “... was an inconclusive sample and we’re retesting it, and just the different elements of the first test lead us to believe it’s a likely positive.”
On Wednesday afternoon, a day before the planned 2021 season opener, which ended up being postponed, Rizzo announced the one positive test and a group of five, four players, and one staff member, who were determined to have been in close contact with the initial positive member of the organization, and the two subsequent positives, and “likely” one, on Thursday, he said, were from players already under quarantine, since they were in close contact with the first player.
The rest of the club, many of whom flew from West Palm Beach to D.C. on Monday, are in what Rizzo described as voluntary quarantine until they determine the extent of the issue.
“We’ve more or less self-quarantined the rest of the team, so everyone is under, I guess, Mike Rizzo-mandated quarantine until we get this thing figured out,” Rizzo said.
Manager Davey Martinez said he told his players to do what they could to stay sharp until they can sort this all out.
“If they have a yard or a basement or something, just do what they can to stay loose, stay in shape,” Martinez said.
“Right now ... we’re in sort of a self-quarantine to make sure that everybody is going to be okay.”
“But with that being said,” he added, “... these guys got to move around, they’ve got to do something, we’ve got to keep them as loose as we possibly can.”
“I think that once we’re allowed to go back in the ballpark,” Rizzo said, “depending on what the daily tests show, hopefully it will be a short stint of being away from baseball activities, and we can return to them very, very soon.”
Once they have a better idea of the extent of the spread, they can also start thinking about how they’re going to fill the roster holes that will need to be filled.
“I think we’re just trying to get through these first couple days of these intense testing days,” Rizzo said when asked about adjusting the club’s Opening Day mix.
“[We’ll] see what our current roster looks like, and then we’ll certainly make several roster changes.
“Fortunately MLB planned for this thing by having the alternate sites right down the road for us ... and we’ve got the players that we’re going to utilize to fill the roster when we find out exactly who is not going to be available and for how long.”
The quarantine periods? How long will players who tested positive be unavailable, and how about those that were in close contact but didn’t test positive?
“The quarantine protocol ... the persons who tested positive must quarantine for 10 days — the close contacts have to quarantine for at least seven days per MLB protocol,” Rizzo said.
Are MLB and D.C.’s quarantine protocols different? And which protocols will the team follow now?
“We’re in concert with both MLB and D.C.,” Rizzo said. “We did the same thing last year and we have an open communication, and it’s really on a case-by-case basis. But it could be anywhere from 7-10 days like I mentioned yesterday depending on the circumstances of that individual player.”
One bit of good news, the players at the club’s Alternate Training site in Fredericksburg, VA, were all tested, and there were no positives in that group.
“Everyone there tested negative and they will begin their baseball activities,” Rizzo said, and when they have to, they’ll make the rumored moves out there official by bringing some up.
Martinez said the latest developments are a reminder that the coronavirus pandemic is not over yet.
“It’s still here, as I said in Spring Training, we’re still in the midst of a pandemic and people need to still take this seriously. I mean, they really do. Unfortunately it hit us and we’ve got to take care of our own now, but, hey, all I can say is be safe, continue to wear your mask like they ask and know that this still can happen to anyone. It’s tough for us right now, but we’re going to get through it.”