The Washington Nationals will be down five players and a staff member for Opening Day after a player tested positive for COVID-19, general manager Mike Rizzo said Wednesday.
“We are following MLB protocols and CDC protocols and working closely with the league to determine our next steps,” Rizzo said. “It will be a lot of balls in the air until then.”
Rizzo said the positive result came from a test conducted Monday, while the Nationals were still in Florida for spring training. The team then took a charter flight to Washington, where the club is scheduled to host the New York Mets on Thursday night for Opening Day.
Through contact tracing, the team identified four other players and a staff member who need to quarantine. All six individuals will miss Thursday’s opener, but their status after that is unclear.
Per MLB’s health and safety protocols for 2021, the player who tested positive will be required to isolate for a minimum of 10 days, receive appropriate care and monitoring from the club medical staff, and be cleared by the Joint Committee and the individual’s team physician following a mandatory cardiac evaluation and a determination that the individual no longer presents a risk of infection to others.
The name of the player who tested positive was not revealed.
“We’ll have some roster decisions to make depending on how this all shakes out before Opening Day,” Rizzo said. “This is just a small blip on our radar screen. We’re going to handle it and take it in stride.”
The Nationals had no positive tests during spring training, and the team has not yet been vaccinated. Rizzo said he has received one shot of the vaccine already and will advise players to get it as soon as they are eligible, but will leave the decision up to them.
Thursday’s starting pitcher, Max Scherzer, was not on the team charter and has been cleared to pitch, pending the outcome of a COVID-19 test taken on Wednesday. He was asked for his reaction after hearing that a teammate tested positive.
“Oh crap,” he said.
The Nationals will dip into their alternate site in Fredericksburg, Virginia, to fill needed roster spots for Opening Day.