HOUSTON -- The Astros were without second baseman Jose Altuve, third baseman Alex Bregman, designated hitter Yordan Alvarez, catcher Martín Maldonado and utility infielder Robel García for Wednesday’s game against the Tigers after they were placed on the injured list.
Astros general manager James Click said the five players were put on the IL “as a result of the health and safety protocols,” meaning they could return once they are cleared. There is no minimum stay for players who are placed on the COVID-19 IL, and Click said how long the players are out will depend on subsequent testing.
Click said there’s no indication anyone on the team broke protocols and that the players have been “exceptionally vigilant” about following the rules at the ballpark and away from the ballpark. He said he was in close contact with Major League Baseball throughout the day about the possibility of postponing the game.
“They don’t believe there is a health and safety reason not to play,” he said. “As of now, we’re playing the game. We certainly respect that decision.”
The moves left the Astros scurrying to fill their roster in time for Wednesday’s game. The Astros recalled infielder Taylor Jones, catcher Garrett Stubbs and infielder Abraham Toro from the alternate training site in Corpus Christi, Texas. Infielder Alex De Goti and outfielder Ronnie Dawson were added to the 40-man roster and also came from Corpus Christi. Dawson was in the lineup at designated hitter for his Major League debut.
“We recalled a few guys who have some big league experience, but we’re adding a couple of guys who are going to make their big league debuts,” Click said of De Goti and Dawson. “That’s a special time, special moment for those guys and hopefully they can make it more special by winning a game.”
The Astros had one player, reliever Pedro Báez, test positive for COVID-19 during the spring, which forced a group of pitchers into quarantine in March. The Astros left Spring Training and flew from Florida to Houston on March 29 to get vaccinated as a team at Minute Maid Park.
Clubs were informed just before Opening Day 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 percent of their Tier 1 Individuals are fully vaccinated. This applies to all players and staff who are considered Tier 1, including those at the alternate site. As part of that memo, players and staff were again strongly encouraged to receive one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines when eligible.
Click said Wednesday the club had a “high degree of interest in [the vaccine]” and “a lot of us are just excited to get that second shot and try to get back to normal.” He hasn’t said if the club will reach the 85 percent threshold.
“Hopefully we can continue with the highly successful vaccination efforts that we’ve had on the roster so far and put this thing behind us in the next few weeks,” Click said.
Regarding the players placed on the IL on Wednesday, manager Dusty Baker did clarify that, "all the guys involved had at least their first shots."
The Astros entered Wednesday’s series finale against the Tigers having lost four games in a row and will now be without three key bats in the lineup. The team is off Thursday before traveling to Seattle to open a series against the Mariners on Friday and it’s unclear if the players will be able to travel.
“We have to go forward with whoever’s here,” Baker said. “You pick up the flag and you keep on persevering. … It’s better it happens now than it happens later in the year. Out of adversity comes opportunity. It’s a time for some guys to shine.”