WASHINGTON – The Nationals begin their season on Tuesday, hosting the Atlanta Braves after Major League Baseball delayed the opener of Monday’s three-game series due to a coronavirus outbreak involving 11 players from Washington.
“The most recent round of Nationals staff test results showed no new positive results,” MLB said in a statement sent Sunday evening. “Everything of [Washington’s] Qualifying personnel can participate in baseball activities at Nationals Park Monday. “
Four Nationals players tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week and are in isolation, while another seven are in quarantine because contact tracking has determined they may have been exposed to the virus.
Washington general manager Mike Rizzo said earlier on Sunday that none of those eleven – the majority, though not all, of whom should be on the opening day squad – would be available as the set of three games with Atlanta on Monday. began. Rizzo has not publicly identified any of the players involved or the two staff members who have also been quarantined for potential exposure.
Washington has yet to play this season; the opening series of three games at home against the New York Mets on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday was postponed.
“Believe me, we are in constant contact with MLB,” Rizzo said in a video interview with reporters on Sunday afternoon, while still awaiting a decision on Monday’s game.
Rizzo was adamant that Washington should be able to hold team training before facing an opponent. Pitchers could go to Nationals Park one by one on Saturday and Sunday to pitch bullpen-sessions.
“Positioning players haven’t worked out for a week. And pitchers haven’t thrown a single competitive field in that same period. It’s something we take very seriously here. We think about creative ways according to protocol and under guidance to help these guys as best we can. to prepare, ”said Rizzo.
“It makes a lot of sense for baseball, in terms of player protection, to let these guys do their thing in full practice before we hit the field,” he added.
The reigning National League East champion Braves is 0-3 and comes out of a season-opening sweep in which they managed to score a total of three runs with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Braves manager Brian Snitker said Sunday afternoon – before the MLB ruling came – he assumed his club would play Monday until he heard otherwise.
“This is the COVID era. Everything is fluid,” said Snitker.
The Nationals and Braves now face each other on Tuesday and Wednesday. The 2019 World Series champions, who played last in the division last season, would then have Thursday off before heading out for a road trip starting Friday at the Los Angeles Dodgers.
MLB has not announced when the first four games on Washington’s schedule will be made up.
Rizzo said the four players who tested positive “feel much, much better,” adding that any symptoms that appeared earlier have disappeared.
“We want to do everything we can to nip this thing in the bud here and now,” said Rizzo. “So I think that a lot is taken into account when we talk about the coming days.”
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