As Major League Baseball is gradually approaching something like a coronavirus finish line, its happiest day of the year – opening day – has been delayed by the postponement of the opening of the Washington Nationals-New York Mets national television program due to COVID-19 problems with Citizens.
MLB announced the delay Thursday morning, citing a “permanent search for contacts involving members of the Nationals.” The teams hope to play on Saturday, after a scheduled day off on Friday.
Citizens, who underwent an entire spring training session without a positive coronavirus test, suffered a blow upon arriving in Washington when they learned the player had tested positive, resulting in four more players and a staff member isolated for the opener after contact tracing.
On Thursday afternoon, the general manager of Nationals said that two isolated players were positive in subsequent tests, expelling three players from the game for at least 10 days and creating a spectrum of potentially closer contacts.
“They did additional testing and without going into details, it became clear that the safest course for both teams was to take advantage of tomorrow,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in an interview with ESPN on Thursday morning.
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The initial positive test was done on Monday, raising the range of more positive tests that are the result of tests conducted in the coming days.
“Experience is always a good teacher,” Rizzo said on Wednesday. “We’ve been through this last opening day. It’s no longer a stranger. We know how to test; we know what happens when someone tests positively and we react quickly and quickly through a protocol established last season.”
Still, the crowd of unavailable players was too much to set up a representative roster to open. Nearly all citizens arrived Monday night from West Palm Beach in the state of Fla. For Washington, starter Max Scherzer, who opened the day, said he flew separately with his family – and the five players were immediately recognized as close contacts.
MLB protocols define close contact as the distance from someone to someone during a cumulative 15 minutes over a 24-hour period.
The high-profile opener – two-time Cy Young award winner Jacob deGrom and three-time winner Max Scherzer were due to face off, and shortstop superstar Francisco Lindor was due to debut at the Mets – will be lifted for another day. Menu manager Luis Rojas said on Thursday that he was “quite optimistic” that the teams would play on Saturday afternoon.
“Our sympathy is with the team on the other side,” Rojas says. “We will be ready on Saturday to play against Nacional.”
A sobering reminder is that, after the 2020 season in which the Miami Marlins and St. The Louis Cardinals suffered an outbreak of multiple players before the league corrected the ship, a specter of a pandemic lasting, even as vaccination intensified.
Rizzo confirmed that he had received the first dose of the vaccine, and the CEO of St. Louis Cardinals John Mozeliak told reporters Thursday that his club had reached 85% of the vaccination plateau among staff. This will allow cardinals to loosen some COVID-19 protocols, such as food in restaurants.
Rojas said MLB shared a letter polling players about their willingness to vaccinate. “I have no idea who will do it,” Rojas says, “nor what the number of heads will be.”