Opening Day of the 2021 MLB season is here and COVID-19 is already causing its first postponed game, hitting the Washington Nationals.
Washington’s general manager Mike Rizzo announced Wednesday that one player tested positive for the coronavirus and four others were deemed close contacts. As a result, the organization needed to reshuffle its roster before Opening Day and they were expected to make a series of transactions on Thursday.
ESPN’s Buster Olney first reported that the Nationals’ game against the New York Mets would be postponed. As expected. The Athletic’s Evan Drellich confirmed the decision is tied to the Nationals’ COVID-19 issues and the Mets do not have any positive tests.
Major League Baseball has released its test results each week and just two players tested positive in the most recent league-wide testing. There was increased optimism for Opening Day to be held without any delays or postponements caused by the coronavirus, but this latest setback will likely serve as a reminder for every team.
Unfortunately for the Nationals, the situation might be worse than initially feared. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported there are new concerns at least one more player has tested positive for the virus and contact tracing is underway to determine what other teammates might need to be held out.
The first positive result came from testing conduct on Monday in West Palm Beach. Unfortunately, all players shared a charter flight back to Washington D.C. As a result, it put others at an increased risk of contracting the virus.
In an effort to avoid situations like this, MLB has created incentives to encourage players to get the vaccine. Among them, the relaxing of safety protocols and restrictions both inside the stadium and away from it when 85% of players receive the vaccine.
The Washington Nationals didn’t provide the name of the player who tested positive, nor those deemed close contacts. However, the club reportedly planned to call up infielder Luis Garcia and catcher Tres Barrera before Friday’s game.
MLB hasn’t yet officially announced the official postponement of Friday’s game. Washington and New York are both off Friday before resuming play on Saturday and Sunday. According to Joel Sherman, a makeup game isn’t expected to be scheduled for Friday.