Mets-Nats postponed; new OD Mon. at Phils

April 2nd, 2021

WASHINGTON -- J.D. Davis awoke on Thursday understandably eager for Opening Day. The Mets' third baseman grabbed some breakfast and poured a cup of coffee, then sat down to dig into scouting reports on Max Scherzer and various Nationals relievers. That’s when he received word that Opening Day had been canceled.

“It was definitely a punch to the stomach,” Davis said.

A day later, the Mets learned that the rest of their series against the Nationals wasn’t happening, either. Major League Baseball on Friday announced the postponement of the entire three-game set at Nationals Park due to COVID-19 issues in Washington’s clubhouse. Opening Day will not take place for the Mets until Monday in Philadelphia.

“Once we got word of what happened, there was a little bit of disappointment,” Davis said. “But at the same time, we were fortunate enough because … it was just a couple games that got postponed. The season is still going on, and we’re still all together and ready to play baseball.”

Over the past few days, the Nationals learned that four of their players had tested positive for COVID-19, forcing those players, plus five others and a staff member, to enter quarantine. Rather than have the Nats activate taxi squad players, the league -- citing “an abundance of caution” -- chose to postpone the games to allow for additional testing and contact tracing. In that manner, MLB hopes to contain any further spread of the coronavirus in the Washington clubhouse.

It is a similar situation to one the Mets faced last August, when they had four games postponed after a player tested positive for COVID-19. The only difference was that one happened in the middle of the season, whereas this situation unfolded just before Opening Day.

“You can feel a little turned off because you had the excitement going,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “But you’ve just got to get back on track immediately, because there’s opportunities always. Even though you get surprised by some of these scenarios, things are happening everywhere -- I mean, we’ve been living like this since last year. The best we can do is react quickly and start planning on what you can do to keep moving forward.”

To that end, the Mets plan to remain in Washington until Sunday. They worked out Thursday and Friday at Nationals Park, with plans to do the same on Saturday and Sunday. Then they will bus to Philadelphia on Sunday evening, in preparation for their 7:05 p.m. ET opener on Monday.

That night’s starting pitcher, Jacob deGrom, intends to throw a bullpen session on Saturday to keep sharp in advance of it. The Mets will keep their entire rotation in order, which now lines Taijuan Walker up to pitch the Mets’ home opener next Thursday at Citi Field:

Monday, April 5: Jacob deGrom, at Phillies

Tuesday, April 6: Marcus Stroman, at Phillies

Wednesday, April 7: David Peterson, at Phillies

Thursday, April 8: Taijuan Walker, vs. Marlins

With a team off-day scheduled for April 9, the Mets intend to bring deGrom back to start the following day on regular rest -- though that is not yet official. Fifth starter Joey Lucchesi may not pitch until the ninth game of the season on April 14.

With so much downtime, Lucchesi and the Mets are trying to keep as sharp as possible, using techniques honed during their similar situation last summer. In addition to workouts at Nationals Park, which include infield and outfield practice, batting practice and simulated games, several Mets hitters have requested virtual reality units to use in their hotel rooms. That allows them to track pitches from anyone they load into the program -- Scherzer, for example, or the Mets’ new Opening Day opponent, Phillies left-hander Matt Moore.

“We’re kind of learning from last year and trying to adapt and kind of learning from our situations,” Davis said, “and executing and staying ready and saying locked in.”

Mets officials recently circulated a survey in the clubhouse asking players if they will receive a COVID-19 vaccine when eligible, given MLB’s updated policies. Clubs were informed on Monday that MLB and the MLBPA have agreed to relax certain health and safety protocols contained in the 2021 Operations Manual for fully vaccinated Tier 1 Individuals and for clubs where 85% of their Tier 1 Individuals are fully vaccinated. As part of that memo, players and staff were again strongly encouraged to receive one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines when eligible.

It remains unclear if the Mets will meet that 85 percent threshold. Davis called it “a personal decision,” and said he didn’t know if he would get vaccinated. Regardless, Mets players will continue adhering to MLB regulations as they prepare for the Phillies and their new Opening Day.

“I know nobody really wants to be in this situation,” Davis said. “You are so looking forward to Opening Day and those emotions and everything. Especially the fans. Especially with stadiums opening up and people wanting to come in and experience a baseball game again and just see their team on the field. I feel their disappointment … but it is what it is. For us guys, we’re just staying locked in, staying ready to go. If we have to make up those games later down the road, then so be it. We’ll grind it out, and we’ll try to get those three wins.”