Nats’ game off after four players, eight others test positive

The wildest week in recent Nationals history took another unexpected turn when Major League Baseball announced tonight’s game in Philadelphia is being postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak following Tuesday night’s revelation that Trea Turner tested positive for the coronavirus.

MLB made the announcement at 5:45 p.m., saying the third game of this planned four-game series against the Phillies was called off “to allow for continued testing and contact tracing involving members of the Nationals organization.”

Manager Davey Martinez then revealed the team had 12 positive tests in total, four of them players (including Turner). The eight others are staff members. Only a few have shown symptoms, and all have been mild.

“Hopefully, no one else will test positive,” Martinez said in a Zoom session with reporters. “But, yeah, there is some concern here right now. As soon as the game got canceled, I got everybody out of here and on a bus and back to the hotel. I want to do the same thing myself, and get back there and get out of here so they can clean this place up, and we’ll get ready for tomorrow.”

For now, the two teams plan to play a single-admission, 14-inning doubleheader Thursday at Citizens Bank Park, beginning at 12:05 p.m., though the weather forecast is shaky. If they cannot play for any reason, the Nats would need to make an extra trip to Philadelphia at some point to make up two lost games, or else add two games when the Phillies are in Washington later this season (Aug. 2-5, Aug. 30-Sept. 1).

Thumbnail image for Turner-HR-Swing-Gray-sidebar.jpgIn order to play Thursday, though, the team will need to avoid more positive tests from a new round of rapid tests that are being administered this evening. At minimum, the four players and eight staffers who already tested positive will be ineligible to participate, forcing the club to scramble to replace them.

“I’m sure I’ll be talking to (general manager Mike Rizzo) all night long and trying to figure out a roster for the next few days,” Martinez said. “And also talk to (pitching coach Jim Hickey) about the rotation. And then we’ll go from there. Right now, I honestly haven’t even thought about who’s going to pitch. My concern is the health of everybody.”

Martinez said he believes only one of the 12 impacted people is unvaccinated.

“Thus far, nobody’s gotten very sick, which is a good thing,” he said. “And I do believe that the vaccinations have helped that in a big way. I’ve said this before, but I encourage people to get vaccinated. It does help. I’m seeing it firsthand. The guys that are getting sick, it’s basically just like a small head cold. But they’re doing fine.”

The Nationals were informed of Turner’s positive test during the top of the first inning Tuesday night, just as he was scoring from third base on Josh Bell’s three-run homer. Martinez immediately informed his All-Star shortstop, who proceeded to isolate and was removed from the game.

Following his team’s 6-4 win over the Phillies, Martinez said no other players had been deemed as close contacts to Turner, and thus nobody else was required to isolate at that point. He added, though, that the entire team would probably need to undergo a round of testing, the results of which would determine if any more steps needed to be taken.

Martinez also noted Tuesday night that vaccinated members of the Nationals’ traveling party were no longer required to undergo regular testing, one of several benefits of the club surpassing the 85 percent vaccination threshold MLB established earlier this year to encourage players and staffers to get their shots. The Nats reached that threshold on May 28, exactly two months ago, though they have not reached 100 percent vaccination.

Though the 12 players and staffers who tested positive are now required to quarantine for a period of time, some should be able to head back to Washington because they had driven themselves to Philadelphia for the series.

This becomes the second COVID-19 outbreak this season that has forced the Nationals to postpone games. Their opening series against the Mets had to be called off after four players tested positive and nine others were deemed close contacts following the team’s flight home from spring training.

The Nats also had to place pitchers Erick Fedde and Tanner Rainey on the COVID-19 injured list in May after Fedde (who was vaccinated) tested positive and Rainey was deemed a close contact.

Now this, the largest outbreak yet, months after the vast majority of the team was vaccinated.

“We all know what’s going on. We all know the possibilities that could happen,” Martinez said. “If there’s any positives out of this whole thing, we were 85 percent vaccinated. Above 85 percent. And we did (have this outbreak). But nobody’s really ill. I think it’s because of the fact we did get vaccinated. It does help.”

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