Orioles outfielder Anthony Santander, made available earlier today to the media, confirmed that he tested positive to COVID-19 after arriving in Baltimore for the intake process and was quarantined for two weeks.
Santander said he had “mild” symptoms, which included a low fever, and considers himself lucky.
“Now I’m healthy, I’m not contagious, happy to be back on the field with my teammates and ready to work out,” Santander said during a Zoom conference call, answering most questions without the aid of translator Ramón Alarcón.
“Now we have a couple days for opening day. I just have to work and try to get ready as soon as possible.”
The symptoms began almost a month ago while Santander stayed in Florida during the shutdown. He declined to offer any specifics on how he contracted the virus.
“I feel good since July 1, just mild symptoms three weeks ago, almost a month. I just had two days of a low fever,” he said.
“When everything stopped I continued to practice to prepare for the season. When I got here I realized that I got (COVID-19) and quarantined for two weeks. But thank God I kept in shape doing some pushups and core things that I could to keep in shape.
“This was obviously a very serious issue. I’m very thankful that I got mild symptoms and I’m going to put everything I’ve got to try to be ready for the season.”
Santander watched last night’s game from the dugout while wearing a mask and kept it on for his Zoom session. Major League Baseball is trying to make it through a 60-game season and the playoffs. Santander understands the risks.
He’s lived through the daily reminders.
“We need to (take) precautions all the time with what’s going on,” he said. “I think that we need to make every single effort that we can to try to play the games and bring some joy to the fans. Hopefully, everybody’s smart about doing the right thing and just be careful. Wear a mask as much time as possible and keep social distance.”
Manager Brandon Hyde reviewed Santander’s workout yesterday and what lies ahead.
“Tony looked good yesterday,” he said. “He took some batting practice. We did some light outfield stuff. Pretty light workout. He’ll go through it again today, similar where he’s taking coaches batting practice, doing some cage stuff, doing some outfield drills. Happy with how he looked and feels good today, so we’ll continue to ramp him up.
“He tracked (pitches) in the bullpen also to help with getting his timing back as fast as possible, and we’ll continue to do that as well. And he’ll be facing some live pitching here shortly.”
The Orioles want to include Santander on their opening day roster for the July 24 game in Boston rather than place him on the injured list.
One of the biggest challenges for Santander, he said, is to “stay healthy,” which takes on new meaning in 2020.
“I’ve just got to build up little by little,” he said. “I will do everything I can to get ready. See live pitches and start to play intrasquad and try to be ready.”
A major adjustment for Santander was getting used to the new clubhouse setup and the protocols that separate players and staff for safety reasons. A sense of normalcy came only after he began his workout.
“Thankfully, on the field it felt great,” he said. “Physically, I feel ready to go. I was really happy to participate with teammates and I’m looking forward to the season.”
Players were both happy and relieved that Santander made it back to Camden Yards.
“It hits closer to home,” said infielder Pat Valaika. “I saw him the very first day of testing. I said ‘hi’ to him and next thing you know he’s gone for two weeks, so definitely hits home. Makes you think you’ve got to take all the precautions you can.”
“They know this is something serious,” Santander said. “We are teammates, we are family. They received me very good. No bullying, none of that stuff. They just said, ‘We’re glad you’re here.’”
Santander eased his way into regular playing time last summer and slashed .261/.297/.476 with 20 doubles and 20 home runs in 93 games. He wore down in September, going 13-for-84 (.155) before the Orioles shut him down with a tender shoulder.
“The opportunity that the manager gave me to play every day, I always say this game is about adjustments and if you don’t have an opportunity to play you can’t make it,” he said.
Hyde said again that he can’t comment on the status of outfielder Dwight Smith Jr., who remains absent from the Camden Yards camp.
Asked whether he anticipates anyone else reporting this week, Hyde replied, “I’m not sure.”
Hyde said some players in Bowie will be summoned to Camden Yards to fill out rosters for remaining games prior to opening day. He isn’t ready to announce any other additions to the pool.
“I think that they’re going to get hopefully invited, but we’ll see,” Hyde said.
Only players in the 60-man pool are allowed to work out at the alternate site. Games and a season will be simulated via intrasquad games and pitchers stretched out in order to keep everyone ready. Hyde conceded that it’s going to be “tough.”
“To not have a Triple-A season, it’s challenging in that you’re probably not going to be playing nine-inning, normal games, but you’re going to try to simulate that the best you possibly can,” Hyde said. “We’re going to try to match up starters down there to be able to cover us when needed, as well as develop. We have young guys down there also, guys who haven’t been in the big leagues yet, that we’re going to continue their development.
“And same with positions players, try to keep them as game-ready as possible. That’s not going to be easy because you’re not playing a normal season. So try to get as many at-bats as possible, try to make it game-like, try to get the game reps defensively also.
“I think we’re going to be creative in how we do that down there.”