WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Nationals received one positive COVID-19 test result from a player on Wednesday morning, the day before they were scheduled to host the Mets at 7:09 p.m. ET on Opening Day. The game was postponed on Thursday with no makeup date set.
An additional four players and one staff member are in quarantine following contact tracing. None of the five players would have been available for Thursday’s matchup at Nationals Park.
“We're unable to disclose any additional information about who tested positive,” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “But we are following MLB protocols and CDC protocols and working closely with the league to determine our next steps. There'll be a lot of balls in the air until then.”
The test that yielded a positive result was conducted Monday, the final day of Spring Training. There previously had been no positive tests among the Nationals this spring.
“We tested, we played that game that night, we got on the bus and then the charter plane that took us back to D.C.,” Rizzo said. “That's the only interaction that we've had with each other that's different than any other Spring Training day.”
The Nationals completed their previously-scheduled COVID tests -- both rapid and saliva-based -- on Wednesday afternoon. Rizzo said the team will know the rapid results “sooner rather than later,” and approximately 36 hours after MLB’s saliva test.
Upon receiving that information, the Nats will have a better sense of what they can anticipate for player availability early this season. They will look to fill roster vacancies from the alternate training site in Fredericksburg, Va.
“This is the reason that you have 60 good players in the organization, is to kind of prepare for these type of fail-safe scenarios,” Rizzo said. “No matter how many people that we have to protect and put into COVID protocol, we're going to reach down and grab some really good players to help us beat a really good New York Mets team tomorrow night.”
The Nationals faced a similar situation last season when Juan Soto tested positive on Opening Day. This season’s opener is going to be different, though, with 5,000 fans allowed in Nationals Park. Wednesday’s test results were a reminder of ongoing state of the pandemic.
“[I thought] just kind of: ‘Oh, crap,’” said Opening Day starter Max Scherzer, who flew home with his family separately from the team. “Everybody across the game, we had seen so few positive cases across Spring Training as a whole. It just shows you how quickly that can turn -- it can turn on a dime. We have to face it, and we have to overcome it.”
The Nationals’ 26-man roster looked to be set this past weekend. It will have a new look after they learn the status of their players.
“We've got a long season ahead of us,” Rizzo said. “We're ready for the long haul. This is just a small blip on our radar screen. We're going to handle it and take it in stride.”