MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers endured a scare Wednesday on the eve of Opening Day, when one of their players returned what eventually was deemed a false positive test result for COVID-19.
By day’s end, the entire traveling party had been re-tested and cleared to participate in a nighttime workout at American Family Field, where the Brewers are scheduled to host the Twins on Thursday at 1:10 p.m. CT.
“To kick the season off like that would have been terrible,” said Brandon Woodruff, who is slated to make his second straight Opening Day start. “That just goes to show you how important it still is to take these protocols seriously. We got through 60 games last year, but we’ve got to get through 162 this year.”
Said Christian Yelich: “It's a reminder that, you know, we're not really out of the woods yet with this whole COVID thing, and we need to take it on ourselves to be responsible and take the precautions that we need to. Fortunately, we got lucky, it looks like today.”
Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said he got word around 6 a.m. CT Wednesday that a player had tested positive. Immediately, Brewers vice president of medical operations, health and safety, Roger Caplinger, and senior director of team travel and clubhouse operations, Dan Larrea, sprang into action to alert players, coaches and staff of the required next steps.
The testing is sophisticated enough, Stearns said, that there are certain indicators of a false positive, as happened to a member of the team’s coaching staff during Spring Training. It was not until late afternoon Wednesday that the situation was resolved, Stearns said, delaying the Brewers’ workout by a bit.
“At the time we got it, we did not know it was a false positive; we treated it like a positive,” Stearns said. “We went through Major League Baseball’s protocols and we are now confident that it was indeed a false positive. I’m not going to mention the player who received the false positive. But we went through our entire contact-tracing protocol, went through our quarantine protocol. …
“We don’t anticipate any issues at this point. We are confident this was a false positive and we’ll have our full complement of players [for the start of the season].”
The Washington Nationals were not as fortunate, with one Nationals player testing positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday.
Stearns and the Brewers, meanwhile, were breathing a sigh of relief.
“To think that we had gotten this far and we would potentially have a situation where we’d lose a segment of our Major League team on the doorstep of the season was frustrating,” Stearns said. “But at that point we were most concerned about the health and safety of our players and ensuring that everyone is indeed healthy, and we’re fortunate that everyone is.”
Feyereisen, McKinney make the cut
The Brewers didn’t intend to formalize their 26-man Opening Day roster until Thursday morning. But with word from manager Craig Counsell that he’d informed reliever J.P. Feyereisen and outfielder Billy McKinney they’d made the club, and Stearns’ confirmation that the Brewers will open with 12 pitchers and 14 position players, you can do the math.
Barring something unforeseen overnight, here’s how the roster was shaping up as of Wednesday night:
Starting pitchers: Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, Adrian Houser, Brett Anderson, Freddy Peralta
Relief pitchers: Josh Hader, Devin Williams, Brent Suter, Eric Yardley, Josh Lindblom, Drew Rasmussen, Feyereisen
Catchers: Omar Narváez, Manny Piña
Infielders: Keston Hiura, Kolten Wong, Travis Shaw, Luis Urías, Orlando Aricia, Daniel Robertson, Daniel Vogelbach
Outfielders: Jackie Bradley Jr., Lorenzo Cain, Avisaíl García, Yelich, McKinney
“I think J.P.’s put himself in a position where he’s really earned it and he deserves it,” Counsell said of Feyereisen, who allowed one run on one hit in 9 2/3 spring innings, with 17 strikeouts. “He’s at the point where he expects it, almost. That means he’s in a different place. There’s the surprise and then the guy that expects it. And I think J.P.’s in a place where he’s pitching so well that he expects it, and that’s a good thing.”
Of McKinney, who tied for the team lead with four spring homers, Counsell said, “When you come into camp out of options and you don’t have a secure spot on the team, you know there’s a lot riding on your performance, probably more than any of the other players, I think Billy did his job. … He performed his way onto the team.”
A secret to Yelich’s success
How did Yelich let go after tough nights last season?
His secret has to do with his uniform.
"Whenever you play well or you don't play well, I feel like you stay in your uniform as long as you need to in the clubhouse until the day is over,” said Yelich. “If you played really well that night and you want to enjoy the game, like, stay in uniform. Then once you shower, put your street clothes on and go home, then that day is over and you focus on the next day. The same goes for when you're struggling. You put everything you have into it to try and figure it out, try and help your team, try and be productive, and whether it goes that way, or not, for you, once you shower up and put your street clothes on, you step away and you have optimism that tomorrow will be better.
“You know, maybe that's a crazy way to look at things, but that's how you have to do it and how you have to survive a Major League season. Yeah, I didn't have the greatest two months last year. I've answered plenty of questions about it. I've had to answer for what happened in two months. It's another reason why I'm excited to start [Thursday].”