The Nationals could have some of their quarantined players back on the active roster at some point during this weekend’s series in Los Angeles, but there will be complications to get them to Dodger Stadium and available under Major League Baseball’s strict protocols.
“It’s a possibility, it really is,” manager Davey Martinez said during his pregame Zoom session with reporters. “The good news is these guys are testing negative with the nasal swab and the saliva test. They have been, so that’s encouraging for us.”
The Nationals opened the season with nine players on the injured list for undisclosed reasons: Josh Bell, Kyle Schwarber, Josh Harrison, Yan Gomes, Alex Avila, Patrick Corbin, Jon Lester, Brad Hand and Jordy Mercer. The club has said four players tested positive for COVID-19, with seven others deemed close contacts and thus placed into mandatory quarantine. (That list appears to include two players currently at the alternate training site in Fredericksburg.)
MLB protocols state that players who test positive are ineligible to play for 10 days, with close contacts unavailable for seven days. They must also get a negative PCR saliva test returned after five days in quarantine. D.C. Department of Health regulations are a bit stricter, but the Nationals are coordinating with the city and the league in unison, according to general manager Mike Rizzo.
Given all that, it’s conceivable multiple players who were placed in quarantine last Wednesday or Thursday could become eligible in time for Friday’s series opener in Los Angeles.
Here, though, is the problem: The Nationals’ charter is scheduled to fly west tonight following their doubleheader against the Braves. They will spend a full off-day in L.A. in advance of Friday’s 1:10 p.m. local time game, which is the Dodgers’ home opener.
It does not appear any of the quarantined players will be cleared in time to take that flight. And because MLB requires anyone who flies commercially to go through the full intake screening process, those players would be forced to wait another few days before becoming eligible.
“For us, right now, they cannot travel with us because of the timeline,” Martinez said. “So that’s something that we’re trying to work through right now. We’re trying to figure out how we can get these guys there if they’re allowed to meet us in L.A.
“All this stuff is still up in the air. We sat around last night talking about all kind of different things. ... The biggest thing is trying to get them back as soon as possible. Being that these guys have tested negative, that helps a little bit.”
There’s also the issue of keeping the impacted players game-ready while quarantined, and whether or not they’d be good to play as soon as they’re cleared or if they’d need a few days to work out with the team.
“It all depends on when we can get them back, honestly,” Martinez said. “These guys are doing everything they can to stay ready. It’s tough, because they’re isolated and they’re quarantined. ... We’ve sent out equipment to these guys to get ready, stay ready. I know some of them have been throwing in their backyard and stuff. So hopefully that helps.”