Astros general manager James Click, appearing on the team’s pregame radio show Sunday on KBME (790 AM) in Houston, said he has been in contact with Major League Baseball regarding why his club has continued to play with five players on the COVID-19 injured list while the Twins have had a series of postponements.
MLB postponed Monday’s three-game series opener between the A’s and Twins in Oakland to allow for further testing and contact tracing involving members of the Twins, who learned that a member of their traveling party tested positive for the COVID-19 virus on Friday night following their game against the Angels in Anaheim.
Minnesota’s scheduled games for Saturday and Sunday were postponed, with Twins manager Rocco Baldelli later revealing during his session with reporters that two additional players had also tested positive.
On Wednesday, the Astros placed Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martín Maldonado and Robel Garcia on the COVID-19 IL. Astros manager Dusty Baker said they were cleared to start working out, but they won’t join the club until later in the week.
“There are nuances between the various situations in terms of threats and concerns about further spread in the clubhouse and that necessitated shutting things down,” Click said. “I can’t get into the specifics of our results, their results, but a big determining factor in this is the concern about it turning into a Marlins or Cardinals situation from last year where every day there’s another positive, another two positives, and try to get ahead of it.
“Our doctors and our players did a very good job of reacting quickly so there wasn’t the same threat of massive teamwide outbreak there might be someplace else.”
Click, meanwhile, said he’s optimistic the Astros will hit the 85 percent threshold of getting Tier 1 individuals fully vaccinated, which will allow them to lessen protocols. The Astros had a team vaccination event March 29 and a second round of vaccinations will be scheduled soon.
“We’re trying to time up the second shot where we have an off-day the next day,” he said. “We’ve seen from a lot from people in the community after the second shot that there might be 24 hours of symptoms and fatigue and things like that. Some people do have a short, adverse reactions. … Certainly, if we’ve got 20, 30 guys getting a shot, we don’t want to have a whole team out there that’s fatigued. I’m optimistic we’ll get there, but we are working through logistical hurdles how we can keep playing baseball every day.”
McCullers dealing with equilibrium issues
The Astros are still taking a wait-and-see approach about whether Lance McCullers Jr. will be able to start Tuesday against the Rockies in Colorado. McCullers became sick during his start Wednesday against the Tigers and needed an IV to get fluids after the game. Baker said he had trouble catching his breath and his legs were wobbly.
Baker said Sunday he was monitoring “how his breathing is” and what his endurance is like. The Astros will start José Urquidy on Wednesday against the Rockies, while Tuesday’s starter remains TBA.
“You’re always apprehensive in taking a real chance going into that altitude,” Baker said. “It’s always tough enough to deal with. We’ll make the decision here shortly.”
When asked Sunday specifically about McCullers’ breathing issues, Baker said it was more of a problem with his equilibrium.
“Which is directly related to your breathing, kind of,” he said. “You don’t want to be up there and get light-headed. His equilibrium hasn’t been 100 percent but he’s feeling better.”
Baker considers Bruce like ‘my son’
The retirement of Yankees outfielder Jay Bruce on Sunday didn’t catch Baker by surprise. Bruce, who broke into the big leagues in Cincinnati while Baker managed the Reds, called Baker on Saturday and told him he was going to call it a career.
“Jay was like my son,” Baker said. “I’ve always been impressed by Jay and how he gets along with everybody regardless of race and religion or whatever. … I was hoping to get Jay on this team this year and it didn’t happen. He just told me he’s going back on the [injured] list and he didn’t like that and he had no remorse. He’s not going out bitter.”
Drafted by the Reds in the first round in 2005, Bruce batted .244/.314/.467 with 319 home runs and 951 RBIs in 1,650 games for the Reds (2008-16), Mets (2016-17, ‘18), Indians (2017), Mariners (2019), Phillies (2019-20) and Yankees (2021).
Baker said Bruce and Reds first baseman Joey Votto became close to his son, Darren, when he was a bat boy with the Reds.
“I wish Jay the best,” he said. “He’s one of the finest guys that I’ve managed.”