Workouts in D.C., Baseball on Monday?:
In his Zoom call with reporters on Friday, Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo said that the plan was to play the Atlanta Braves in the first game of a three-game set this Monday after a season-opening series with the New York Mets was postponed when four Nationals’ players tested positive for COVID-19 and five others ended up in quarantine with the club’s contact tracing identifying them as having been in close contact with someone who tested positive.
In order to play on Monday, however, Rizzo said, the players, who have been off since they played the final Grapefruit League game in West Palm Beach a week back (Monday, 3/29), would have to get some sort of workouts in.
“You can’t just go from a dead stop and this postponement,” Rizzo explained, “... to ramping up to play the Atlanta Braves and not expect there to be injuries. So we have to find ways to work guys out. Hopefully MLB will allow us to work out tomorrow [Saturday].”
Asked what it would take for Major League Baseball to clear them to return to the park, the GM and President of Baseball ops in the nation’s capital said the entire team getting back a negative test would be a big step for the organization.
“I think it would go a long way if we had a clean team test with this round of tests being all negatives,” Rizzo said.
“I think that that would allow us to discuss with MLB to work out, especially if we are preparing and planning to play on Monday, I think it would be vital for us to work out tomorrow.”
Late on Saturday afternoon, there were some positive reports for those still hoping that the Nationals’ 2021 campaign will start on Monday:
The #Nationals do not have any new positive COVID-19 cases from their latest round of testing, sources tell @Ken_Rosenthal and me.— Britt Ghiroli (@Britt_Ghiroli) April 3, 2021
The hope is they are cleared to work out at Nats Park this weekend before hosting the Braves.
MLB cleared WSH pitchers to throw one at a time at Nationals Park this evening while the team waits for its next round of results, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. So it's not a full distanced workout. But it is something to help arms stay ready.— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) April 3, 2021
A couple of Nationals pitchers have shown up to Nationals Park to play catch, one at a time. They’ve been wearing masks even when standing in the middle of the field alone, which usually is not the case. https://t.co/ELvM2Fos51— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) April 3, 2021
Does that mean they’ll play on Monday? Not necessarily. But as Rizzo said, the players need to stay sharp if they’re going to, and some apparently did get to return to the park to throw, so... we’re saying there’s a chance. But if they do play on Monday afternoon (it’s scheduled to be a 4:05 PM matchup with their divisional rivals), they’ll have to do it without those nine players who are quarantined (35% of the roster).
Rizzo wasn’t offering any info on when any of the unnamed players in quarantine might be eligible to return, though the club is, of course, aware of the timetables.
“At this point we’re not willing to divulge that yet. We want to get all our facts together and double check them before we give any kind of timeline.”
Catching ?s Following Signing:
Multiple reports last Thursday had catching prospect Tres Barrera called up after the news of positive COVID tests first broke, suggesting that one of the two backstops on the roster (Yan Gomes & Alex Avila) were among the players who had either tested positive or been in close contact with one of the players who did.
[ed. note - “The Nationals aren’t naming either the players who tested positive or the players who went into quarantine following contact tracing.”]
Now... what to make of the news that the Nats have signed veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy to a minor league deal?
Sources: Jonathan Lucroy in agreement with the Washington Nationals.— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) April 4, 2021
Lucroy indeed has agreed to minors deal with Nats. Figures in plans. @ByRobertMurray on it— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) April 4, 2021
Gomes, Avila, and Barrera are the only three catchers currently on the 40-Man roster, but as WaPost writer Jesse Dougherty noted on Twitter, it would be possible for Lucroy to, “replace a player on the Covid Related IL without being added to the 40-man roster,” if one of Gomes or Avila (or both?) is/are among the nine players currently in quarantine.
Also, There’s This, Draw Your Own Conclusions:
The Nats are among several teams considering Anibal Sanchez, who took a step back after impressing in a showcase but now plans to pitch. Anibal aided the Nats in their 2019 title. But other teams are involved.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) April 4, 2021