WASHINGTON -- The Nationals will open their 2021 season Tuesday afternoon at 4:05 p.m. ET against the Braves at Nats Park, followed by a straight doubleheader on Wednesday beginning at 12:05 p.m.
After the Nationals’ 2021 season-opening series against the Mets was postponed on Friday after four players tested positive for COVID-19, Major League Baseball announced on Sunday night that Washington's most recent round of COVID-19 tests came back negative. The team will hold a workout on Monday afternoon, in which all of the club's eligible personnel are permitted to participate.
“Any symptoms that they may have been experiencing have subsided,” general manager Mike Rizzo said Sunday afternoon of the positive cases. “They’re feeling much, much better.”
In addition to the four players in isolation who tested positive, there are seven players and two staff members in quarantine due to contact tracing as of Sunday afternoon, for a total of 11 unavailable players. Of the group of players in quarantine, Rizzo said “the majority” were on the Nats’ 26-man roster, while “several” were not. The team plans to fill roster vacancies from the alternate training site in Fredericksburg, Va., where more than 30 players have been participating in daily workouts. The roster has not been announced.
The number of those in quarantine increased since Friday after one player and one staff member previously identified during MLB’s contact-tracing process as people who "required extra scrutiny” were placed into quarantine when the District of Columbia Department of Health “deemed them in close-contact proximity,” Rizzo said.
“We want to do everything we can to nip this thing in the bud right here, right now,” Rizzo said. “So I think that’s being taken very much into consideration when we’re talking [about] the next couple of days.”
Washington’s baseball activity has been limited since its final Spring Training game last Monday, the day of the test that yielded the first positive result. Position players have had to improvise their training and conditioning routines at home. On Saturday, pitchers were permitted to begin reporting to Nats Park one at a time for outdoor-only throwing sessions. Max Scherzer is still slated to start the Nationals’ Opening Day game.
“We’re trying to get every pitcher that’s going to perform for us in the near future to come out and throw, more or less on their regular schedule, if you will,” Rizzo said. “Starters that are teed up to pitch in the first four or five games of the season have a regimen they have to follow to be prepared to do that. It’s difficult to kind of bring the competitiveness into a bullpen session or a side session, but that’s really all we have right now.”
The Mets had stayed in D.C. to work out at Nats Park during the postponement. On Sunday, the Braves traveled to D.C. from Philadelphia, where they were swept by the Phillies, as they awaited word.
"We've got to be ready to play,” said Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud. “It's better to be ready to play and not get surprised. Scherzer will be going for them if there is a game, so it's going to be a fun one. … It's their Opening Day, too, so the crowd will be into it."
The Nationals’ home opener on Tuesday will be the first time they have played in front of fans since their 2019 World Series title run. Previously scheduled Opening Day ceremonies included the re-raising of a championship flag in Center Field Plaza.
“They really want to get back into the routine of baseball, and they want to work out and get the blood flow [going] again,” Rizzo said. “I think they’re very excited about getting back on the field.”