PHILADELPHIA — Thirteen Miami Marlins — 11 of them players — have tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in the postponement of the team’s home opener against the Baltimore Orioles on Monday and delivering the first major test for MLB’s attempt to conduct a season during a worldwide pandemic.
Major League Baseball announced late Monday morning that the Marlins’ traveling party is “self-quarantining in place” in Philadelphia while waiting for the results of additional COVID-19 testing administered on Monday. Tuesday’s Marlins game against Baltimore — the second of a two-game series — also is expected to be canceled; the Orioles were scheduled to fly home from Miami on Monday evening after not playing a game in South Florida.
The Marlins were expected to remain in Philadelphia on Monday night while awaiting word on when and where their next game will be. The Marlins have spoken with MLB about busing from Philadelphia to Baltimore to play the Orioles on Wednesday and Thursday — games that are already scheduled. That option appears the most likely, according to a source.
There has been no serious discussion of the Marlins suspending their season, according to a union source.
“The health of our players and staff has been and will continue to be our primary focus as we navigate through these uncharted waters,” Marlins CEO Derek Jeter said in a statement Monday. “After a successful Spring 2.0, we have now experienced challenges once we went on the road and left Miami. Postponing tonight’s (Monday’s) home opener was the correct decision to ensure we take a collective pause and try to properly grasp the totality of this situation. We have conducted another round of testing for our players and staff, and our team will all remain in Philadelphia pending the results of those tests, which we expect later today. We will provide additional information as soon as it becomes available.”
According to a source, seven Marlins players and two Marlins coaches tested positive in the newest round of tests. That comes after four Marlins players received positive test results before or during the team’s series in Philadelphia over the weekend.
That means 11 of the 33 Marlins players who have been traveling with the team have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a source with direct knowledge.
Two other players who were expected to be on the opening day roster also previously tested positive before practices resumed on July 3; outfielders Lewis Brinson and Matt Joyce did not participate in team practices at Marlins Park earlier this month, though neither has publicly confirmed testing positive for the virus.
At least one starting position player was among the seven who tested positive for COVID-19 in the latest round of tests, according to a source. Combined with the previous COVID results, that means the Marlins will be without at least four starters when they next take the field.
The players and coaches who tested positive have not authorized for their names to be released publicly, though MLB Network’s Jon Heyman has identified catcher Jorge Alfaro, pitcher Jose Urena, and outfielders Garrett Cooper and Harold Ramirez as Marlins players who tested positive over the weekend.
The Marlins did not have any positive tests during the three weeks that they practiced at Marlins Park in preparation for the season.
Meanwhile, MLB also postponed the New York Yankees’ game in Philadelphia on Monday because of concerns about Phillies players being exposed to the virus during the Marlins-Phillies series over the weekend. The Phillies vigorously cleaned the visitor’s clubhouse after the Marlins departed on Sunday afternoon.
Marlins players and coaches, who had hoped to return to South Florida on Sunday night, instead remained at their Philadelphia hotel on Monday morning, very much in limbo.
The Marlins previously changed their flight back to Miami from Sunday night to Monday morning because they were waiting for results from their latest round of COVID-19 testing Sunday morning. Results from the rapid tests normally take between 12 and 24 hours.
That new flight, originally set to depart at 11:10 a.m., was canceled before 9 a.m. Monday. The Marlins then decided to remain at their Philadelphia hotel on Monday night, according to a source.
According to MLB’s operations manual for the season, players and staff members are not allowed to travel or access club facilities following a positive test until after they have two negative tests at least 24 hours apart, show no fever for at least 72 hours, complete an antibody test and are cleared by a team physician as well as the MLB COVID-19 joint committee.
All Marlins players were taking a new round of COVID tests on Monday. The Marlins also were giving tests on Monday to the players who are training at their minor league facility in Jupiter; nine of the Marlins training in Jupiter were with the team in Atlanta last week.
Even with more than a third of the 30-man roster having tested positive for the virus, the Marlins would still have enough players to field a team because MLB authorized teams to have a 60-player pool to open the season.
To fill out their roster, the Marlins would need to promote players — mostly prospects — who have been training at the team’s spring training complex in Jupiter. They could also sign veteran free agents.
MLB created a new COVID-19 injured list this season and it can be used when a player tests positive, shows symptoms, or has contact with someone known to have tested positive. There is no minimum or maximum stay on the COVID-19 list and players must test negative twice at least 24 hours apart to be activated, among other things.
The Marlins had not announced any roster moves as of midday Monday.
Even with receiving word of the first bout of positive tests, the Marlins-Phillies series finale still went on as scheduled, with Miami winning 11-6 to clinch the series.
“Every day, we’re taking risks,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said Sunday of the decision to play. “That’s what players all around the league are doing. You travel all the time. It started with this road trip. You’re traveling. You’re in planes. You’re in buses. You’re in different hotels. It’s a risk that we take. I’m going to go all the way back to (president of baseball operations) Michael Hill telling us early on that we’re going to have to be adjustable. We’re going to have to be flexible. We’re going to have to be patient. We’re going to have to deal with a lot and set ourselves up to deal with a lot in different scenarios.”
Before almost a dozen Marlins players tested positive, MLB had avoided a COVID outbreak since teams convened at their major league stadiums for preseason training earlier in July.
MLB most recently announced testing results last Friday and said at that time that of the 10,548 samples collected and tested, six have been new positives for COVID-19, which comes to a rate of 0.05%. Of the six positive tests, five were players and one was a non-player personnel. Those results were from tests before teams began traveling for the start of the regular season
The Marlins — who chartered flights to Atlanta for two exhibition games last week and then on to Philadelphia for the season-opening series — indicated they have closely followed MLB’s safety protocols. Among them:
— When flying to road cities, all members of the traveling party — which will be 57 or 58 people compared with about 65 in a normal year — must stay seated except for when going to the restroom. In-flight catering services are limited, with a single bag pre-packed with food, drinks, snacks and sanitation wipes provided to everyone. People sitting in the same row cannot eat at the same time.
— Buses have been limited to no more than 20 people per trip, meaning the Marlins will have to add extra trips to and from the hotel and ballpark. The Marlins said there are anywhere from four to six trips going to the stadium before the game and four buses back to the hotel after the game ends.
— Teams are limited to rooms on the first two floors at hotels so that they avoid using elevators. While on the road, they cannot go out to eat (room service and orders from services like GrubHub and UberEats are fine) and are only allowed to have immediate family members or members of the team inside their rooms.
Players could order room service, but Marlins players ate most of their meals at the ballpark.
— The Marlins said the team set things up so that players do a lot of their pregame routines — workouts, conditioning, treatment, film — inside the hotel before going to the park.
With the Marlins pitching staff impacted by COVID-19, the Marlins have claimed right-hander Justin Shafer, per Fox’s Ken Rosenthal.
Shafer went 2-1 with a 3.86 ERA in 34 games with Toronto last season, all in relief. He was traded to Reds in November and designated for assignment last week.