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Cleared to play, Martínez joins Rays' camp

@juanctoribio
July 18, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG -- José Martínez made his first appearance in Rays camp on Saturday, acknowledging that he had missed the first 15 Summer Camp workouts due to a positive COVID-19 test during intake. Martínez said he had felt cold-like symptoms for about a day, but that he “felt fine” over

ST. PETERSBURG -- José Martínez made his first appearance in Rays camp on Saturday, acknowledging that he had missed the first 15 Summer Camp workouts due to a positive COVID-19 test during intake.

Martínez said he had felt cold-like symptoms for about a day, but that he “felt fine” over the last two weeks. During the quarantine process, Martínez said he didn’t do any exercise since he spent the last two weeks inside a room in St. Petersburg.

Players who test positive must self-quarantine, be symptom-free for 72 hours, test negative twice at least 24 hours apart and be cleared by doctors before they can return to the ballpark. Martínez became the third Rays player to acknowledge that he tested positive, joining Tyler Glasnow, who has returned to the field, and Austin Meadows, who is still awaiting medical clearance.

“Excited he’s back,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “He was excited to be around his teammates, and we’re thrilled to have him back.”

Martínez, whom the Rays acquired from the Cardinals in the offseason and had attended most of the voluntary workouts at the Trop, said he was surprised to find out he had tested positive during intake. He added that the most difficult part of the last two weeks has been dealing with some of the thoughts that come with having a positive test.

“You’re in a room, and you don’t know what’s going to happen and if tomorrow is going to be different with the symptoms or you’re not going to have nothing,” Martínez said. "All that stuff, that’s the stuff that affects you 100 percent. It’s not like you turn your ankle, and you’re going to treat it and you’re going to be fine. This is the stuff that is true and it’s still out there, and now, you have to be more conscious and know where you’re going, take care of yourself, take care of your family and your teammates.”

Now that he’s back on the field, Martínez says getting back in game-ready shape will be the biggest thing for his availability. All Martínez did on the field on Saturday was ride on the stationary bike on the right-field line, and cardio work will be the priority.

His conditioning work will continue on Sunday, though he’s also expected to go through defensive drills with third-base coach Rodney Linares and take some at-bats off live pitching. It’s unclear just how many at-bats Martínez will need in order to feel ready for Opening Day, but he said he will take things “day by day.”

“The first thing to think is that obviously, it’s going to take a little time,” Martínez said. “This is stuff I’ve been doing my whole career, and I know my body pretty well, and I know that I have people here that know more than me, that know how to get people in shape. Hopefully, of course, the idea is to be there on Opening Day, but if not -- if my body says ‘no’ -- then you have to pay attention, of course.”

With what he saw out of Martínez during Spring Training, Cash feels optimistic that the club can get the right-handed hitter in the Opening Day lineup despite not yet seeing live pitching during Summer Camp. With Toronto expected to start left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu in the opener, adding Martínez would be a big boost to the lineup.

“If all goes well, I certainly think we can envision him being ready for an Opening Day opportunity,” Cash said. “If there’s a guy that’s capable of doing it … José will probably fit in that category.”

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.