Just two days ago, things were in chaos for the Red Sox. Closing candidate Matt Barnes tested positive for Covid-19 and was ruled out for Opening Day. Eight members of the organization, including three pitchers, were in quarantine due to contact tracing, leaving their status for the start of the season in jeopardy.
Then came a satisfying Monday afternoon, when everything resolved itself.
It turns out that the PCR test that Barnes took on March 25 was deemed a non-infectious positive. The righty reliever was cleared to return to camp along with the eight others who had been identified as close contacts.
“Yeah, I just heard about it,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora after his team’s 4-0 victory over the Braves. “I haven’t talked to [the front office], but I know he got cleared by the committee so I don’t know about the details. I’m just happy that he’s going to be back with us, and it seems like we’re going to be at full strength in a few days.”
With the season set to start on Thursday at Fenway Park against the Orioles, things suddenly feel a lot calmer for the Red Sox after a rocky last couple of days.
Though he missed three days of camp quarantining, Barnes should be good to go for Opening Day, though it remains to be seen what role Cora will use him in.
Barnes and Adam Ottavino are in competition to be the team’s closer this season. The situation might have been resolved by now if not for the events of the past couple of days, which left the Red Sox in survival mode.
“It's too soon right now,” said Cora. “[Barnes] wasn't with us for a while. It's not fair for anybody. It's not that I don't have an idea or whatever, but we have to see where we're at. The other thing that's also important as far as structure [is] not having [Ryan] Brasier.
“We have to see how we match up with people and all of that to make decisions like that. I'll be patient with it. I said we were going to make a decision before we hop on that plane, but with this decision, we're probably [going to] have to wait and see where we're at.”
Starter Garrett Richards, swingman Matt Andriese and rookie long reliever Garrett Whitlock were three other players who were known to be quarantining since Saturday.
With lefty ace Eduardo Rodriguez scratched from Opening Day and likely to miss the first turn through the rotation due to pitching with a “tired arm” in his last start, it is significant that Richards is no longer out of the mix.
Though he missed what was scheduled to be his final start of Spring Training on Sunday, the Red Sox can probably find a way to get him ramped back up in relatively short order.
“Obviously, you know, he stayed at home. He was probably throwing something against the wall or whatever, I don't know,” said Cora. “I haven't talked to him about any specifics, but I'm about to find out, you know, where we’re at physically.”
The big thing for Cora and the Red Sox is that things have stabilized dramatically in a span of 48 hours.
“Hopefully it's the last time we have to go through this, but Spring Training is to prepare you for whatever happens during the season, so we're prepared, but hopefully we don't have to deal with it anymore,” said Cora.
After his postgame media briefing on Monday, Cora was ready to get back on the bus and head back to the team’s home base in Fort Myers, Fla., and put plans in motion for the start of the season.
“We’ve got to be patient. We’ll stay the course. We did a good job the last few days staying calm,” said Cora. “And now that we know what's going on, where we’re at, now we will plan for the weekend. And the good thing is, we’ve got options and we're in a good place. I think that Friday off-day is going to benefit us. The other off-day [on April 9] is going to benefit us right now, and we’ll just take advantage of that and make decisions based on who can perform this weekend and then go from there.”