Nats down 5 players for opener after positive test

    Jesse joined ESPN Chicago in September 2009 and covers MLB for

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.”

The positive result came from a test conducted Monday, while the Nationals were still in Florida for spring training. Word of the test came a little after 1 a.m. Wednesday, after the team already had traveled home to Washington, where the club is scheduled to host the New York Mets on Thursday night for Opening Day.

The flight home was where there was close contact between the player who tested positive and the four teammates and staff member who are now quarantining. 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.

Rizzo did not identify any of the six members of the organization who are involved.

“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 — who had planned to have a workout at their stadium on Wednesday, before it was called off because of rain — did not have a single player test positive during their six weeks of spring training camp in West Palm Beach, Florida. 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 flight and traveled separately with his family. Rizzo said the team underwent a new round of COVID-19 tests Wednesday, as was previously scheduled — a combination of rapid tests and MLB-mandated saliva tests.

Rizzo noted there are players available to be brought in from the club’s alternative training site in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

“This is the reason you have 60 good players in the organization, to kind of prepare for these type of … scenarios.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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