MIAMI — Two major league games scheduled for Monday night were postponed after more than a dozen Miami Marlins players and staff members tested positive for the coronavirus in an outbreak that stranded the team in Philadelphia.
The Marlins’ home opener against Baltimore was called off, as was the New York Yankees‘ game at Philadelphia. The Yankees would have been in the same clubhouse the Marlins used last weekend.
Nine Marlins players on the 30-man roster, two taxi squad players and two staff members tested positive, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because the results hadn’t been publicly disclosed.
The Yankees are staying in Philadelphia for now, and have their own clubhouse staff with the team there, the person said. The Marlins postponed their flight home Sunday night after their series finale against the Phillies.
Major League Baseball announced the postponement of both games about eight hours before the scheduled first pitch, and said additional COVID-19 testing was being conducted. That included Phillies players being tested Monday.
"The members of the Marlins’ travelling party are self-quarantining in place while awaiting the outcome of those results," MLB said in a statement.
The Orioles planned to return to Baltimore from Miami on Monday night, an indication their scheduled game Tuesday against the Marlins won’t take place at Marlins Park.
If the Marlins continue their season, they’ll rely heavily on reinforcements from their training camp in Jupiter, Florida. They could bus from Philadelphia to Baltimore for scheduled games there Wednesday and Thursday.
With no minor leagues this season, teams are allowed to retain 60 players each, including a taxi squad of up to three players for every road trip, giving them immediate options to replace an injured or infected player.
With the 60-game season barely underway, the Marlins’ outbreak raised anew questions about MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s plan for navigating the pandemic.
"Now we REALLY get to see if MLB is going to put players health first," tweeted Los Angles Dodgers pitcher David Price, who opted out of playing. "Remember when Manfred said players health was PARAMOUNT?! Part of the reason I’m at home right now is because players health wasn’t being put first. I can see that hasn’t changed."
Dr. Andrew Morris, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto, said the Marlins’ outbreak isn’t a surprise because Manfred’s plan was seriously flawed.
"Baseball is in huge trouble, huge trouble," Morris said. "It makes me wonder if they are listening to the advice of experts or whether their experts are giving them good advice. This was not a plan anyone who knows what they are talking about would have conceived. It’s playing out like it was supposed to play out."
Marlins CEO Derek Jeter released a statement saying the health of players and staff was his organization’s primary focus.
"Postponing tonight’s home opener was the correct decision to ensure we take a collective pause and try to properly grasp the totality of this situation," Jeter said.
It’s unclear when the Marlins received the latest positive test results. Some players texted each other about the team’s health issues before Sunday’s game, but there was no talk of declining to play, shortstop Miguel Rojas said.
"That was never our mentality," Rojas said. "We knew this could happen at some point. We came to the ballpark ready to play."
Said manager Don Mattingly: "It’s fair to say guys are concerned about things. They want how they’re feeling about the situation to be heard. I think it’s fair. We’re talking about health."
The Marlins played exhibition games at Atlanta on Tuesday and Wednesday against the Braves, who have since been without their top two catchers, Tyler Flowers and Travis d’Arnaud, after both players showed symptoms of COVID-19. Mattingly declined to say whether he thought the Marlins’ health issues were related to the Atlanta stop, but the potential source of the outbreak was a topic around the majors Monday.
"I think it’s really important to trace how it occurred. That’s the one thing we need to know first before you jump to a lot of different conclusions," Los Angeles Angels manager Joe Maddon said. "If there was a breach of protocol by any of those players, then it’s more easily explainable, and if not, then it becomes more problematic. I would just wait and see, let them trace things back, try to figure out why it occurred, and then you start creating your conclusions or drawing your plan up to solve it."