Two hours before Wednesday’s scheduled first pitch between the Nationals and the Cubs at Wrigley Field, Washington had uncharacteristically still not released a lineup. During his pregame Zoom session, Nationals manager Dave Martinez revealed why: a player had tested positive for COVID-19, and another player was deemed a close contact and placed into quarantine.
“Unfortunately, that's how we had to start our day off today,” Martinez said.
The positive test came from the team’s round of testing on Monday. Martinez did not reveal the names of the players, but he said neither of the absences should affect the starting lineup.
About 40 minutes prior to first pitch, right-handed pitchers Erick Fedde and Tanner Rainey were placed on the injured list without specification.
It’s an added blow for a team that had fallen to last place in the National League East entering Wednesday. Sitting at 4-10 since May 4, Washington will now need to navigate through a second COVID situation this season.
“It's tough,” Martinez said. “Anytime you lose a player to something like this, it's always tough, but the big concern is their health. … As we go through this, we’ve got to understand where we're at. We're much better now than we were, obviously, a year ago today, or a few months ago today. … Most of our guys are vaccinated, they understand what's going to transpire through all this, so we’ve just got to keep pushing forward.”
Martinez said the player who tested positive was fully vaccinated, and the Nationals had not yet determined how he had become infected with the virus. The player is still asymptomatic, however, which Martinez said was at least a silver lining in the news.
“I think the most important thing that we need to know is that these vaccinations are to help you not get as sick or sick,” Martinez said. “Like I said, this player feels fine. And for me, that's good news. We've got to follow MLB protocols. Hopefully, he goes through these protocols, he comes back and he's fully healthy and ready to go.”
The player who was placed into quarantine hadn’t been vaccinated, according to Martinez, and will have to follow Major League Baseball’s protocols for those deemed to be close contacts. According to the protocols laid out by MLB prior to this season, “A Covered Individual who has been identified as having been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID will be subject to a mandatory quarantine of seven days and must test negative on day 5 or later among other requirements to rejoin Club facilities.”
Fortunately, the Nationals at least went on their current road trip prepared for this situation.
Martinez said the team would be able to maintain a full 26-man roster Wednesday because it had brought along a taxi squad, which was how they quickly filled in the vacant spots. Righties Paolo Espino and Kyle McGowin were recalled prior to Wednesday's game.
Had the trip kept the club near Washington, the taxi squad players would’ve stayed in the Minors and continued to develop during game action. Being that the trip began in Arizona, however, Martinez decided to bring the extra players along.
“Now, I'm kind of glad we did,” the skipper said.