Cubs-Cards weekend series postponed

August 8th, 2020

ST. LOUIS -- Uncertainty has surrounded the Cardinals again after two additional players and a staff member tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday.

The Cardinals learned late Thursday that outfielder Austin Dean and reliever Ryan Helsley tested positive for the coronavirus, as well as an unidentified staff member, after testing done the past two days. The positive tests postponed this weekend’s three-game series against the Cubs and sent the Cardinals back into quarantine. Additional testing and contact tracing will determine if the spread is wider than the three individuals involved.

Helsley began to have a low-grade fever Thursday, while Dean and the staff member have been asymptomatic.

The Cardinals have had 10 consecutive postponed games due to a coronavirus outbreak. President of baseball operations John Mozeliak told reporters Friday night that decisions about the Cardinals’ next game -- Monday’s series opener against the Pirates at Busch Stadium -- will come after testing results arrive Sunday.

Using MLB’s PCR saliva samples, the team was tested Friday and will be tested again Saturday.

“As of right now I don’t know what our future looks like at this point,” Mozeliak said. “All I know is that we’ve lost these three games and we’ll certainly take this day by day. For all the optimism we had a couple days ago, to be where we are today, it’s definitely frustrating for everybody involved. And so now we’re just going to have to take it one day at a time and hopefully we get through this and we get back to playing baseball soon.”

The additional positive tests bring the Cardinals’ total to 16 -- nine players and seven staff members -- since learning of initial positive tests on July 30. It has been nine days since the Cardinals last played a game -- a 3-0 loss to the Twins on July 29 -- after a coronavirus outbreak within their traveling party paused their schedule and postponed seven games already this week. This weekend’s postponements come a day after MLB restructured the Cardinals’ schedule to make up for the previous postponements. Before Friday’s announcement, the Cardinals were about to start a stretch of 55 games in 52 days. As the season continues, the Cardinals have played an MLB-low five games. This weekend was the Cubs’ only scheduled visit to St. Louis this season, while the Cardinals are scheduled to visit Wrigley Field twice.

The Cardinals believe the initial contact that brought in the virus happened in St. Louis before the trip. Of the three recent tests, the Cardinals have traced one exposure back to Milwaukee and one of the others back to Minnesota, the first leg of the road trip when the spread began. That means an individual tested negative for at least six days during the team’s daily testing in Milwaukee before testing positive.

“That’s the head-scratching part,” Mozeliak said. “Again, you hear those words like incubation. You would think, going on day eight, you would’ve been past that. Statistically I guess that’s an outlier.”

After six days of quarantining in their downtown Milwaukee hotel, the Cardinals had two consecutive days of no new positive tests and were cleared to fly back to St. Louis on Wednesday. They had two workouts -- Wednesday and Thursday -- at Busch Stadium to prepare for this weekend’s series.

Contact tracing will be crucial again this time because the team spent time together on a plane Wednesday and at the ballpark the last few days. Members of the Cardinals’ traveling party have been testing for COVID-19 every day since July 30. Once they got back to St. Louis, the Cardinals also enacted additional measures of protection that included increased use of masks at the ballpark and especially on the field, as well as clearer guidelines on social distancing.

The incubation period of the virus -- believed to be anywhere from two to 14 days -- makes planning difficult for teams wanting to resume play quickly.

“That’s hindsight, right? Obviously if we waited two more days maybe we would have caught the tests and not have regathered,” Mozeliak said. “Instead of three people catching it, maybe only one would have. Of course these things matter, but baseball’s an everyday sport. We’re trying to get back on that field.”

Mozeliak does not know yet what the requirements are to be cleared to play again, citing the day-by-day nature of their situation.

Players came to Busch Stadium from either traveling with the team from Milwaukee or joining the team from the alternate site training camp in Springfield, Mo. The Cardinals added four players from Springfield on Wednesday for workouts, and all of them were going through regular testing in Springfield. They received negative tests before joining the Cardinals' roster.

Six of the seven players who tested positive over the weekend chose to identify themselves: Catcher Yadier Molina, shortstop Paul DeJong, infielders Rangel Ravelo and Edmundo Sosa and relievers Junior Fernández and Kodi Whitley. The Cardinals also placed Carlos Martínez on the injured list for undisclosed reasons.

Several of the players had mild symptoms of the virus, ranging from headaches to low-grade fevers, and manager Mike Shildt said Thursday all of the players had seen improvement in their symptoms. Some of the six staff members who tested positive had more serious symptoms, but Shildt said no one had been hospitalized.

As for what comes next for the Cardinals, Mozeliak stressed the team is taking it one day at a time.

“I think stop-starts are difficult,” Mozeliak said. “I think from players, staff to employees, emotionally we’re pulling on a lot of different cords here. To think that we were going to play tonight and then to find out late last night that the likelihood of that was not going to happen, certainly disappointing. I know everybody involved just wants to get back to baseball, but I know everybody involved too wants to be safe.”