Washington’s season opener against the visiting New York Mets on Thursday was postponed “because of ongoing contact tracing involving members of the Nationals organization,” Major League Baseball announced.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo announced Thursday that three players have tested positive for COVID-19 and a fourth is likely positive. Teammates as well as an unnamed staff member were deemed to be close contacts.
Rizzo said the Nats would have a better timetable of when they can play their first game after contact tracing is done on the new positive cases.
According to reports, the five players and one staff member were on a charter flight together this week. Everybody in question was tested before the team left Florida at the close of spring training, but the first positive test was not revealed until Wednesday.
MLB’s new health and safety guidelines require all players who test positive for COVID-19 to self-quarantine for at least 10 days. All close contacts must isolate for seven days and test negative by Day 5 in order to return to the club.
“(I thought) just kind of: ‘Oh, crap,’” Nationals’ Opening Day starter Max Scherzer said. “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.”
Scherzer (5-4, 3.74 ERA in 2020) was scheduled to face New York’s Jacob deGrom (4-2, 2.38 in 2020) in a duel of right-handers who have combined to win five Cy Young Awards.
The Nationals found themselves in a similar situation in 2020 after Juan Soto tested positive on Opening Day. Soto missed almost the first two weeks of the season for what he later said he believed to be a false positive.