The Nationals had four players test positive and nine others — seven players and two staff members — in quarantine because they were potentially exposed to the virus. Martinez indicated that not all players opted to take the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccination. And at the time of his late-afternoon news conference, he did not know if the team had reached 85 percent of vaccinations for players, coaches and staff, which would lead to MLB relaxing some of its coronavirus protocols for the Nationals.
Martinez was just excited to take another step toward normal. The team was searching for vaccination opportunities outside of D.C. because the city’s regulations have been more restrictive than some other places, according to those with knowledge of the Nationals’ planning. The Cardinals, Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees and Houston Astros are among the teams that have been mostly vaccinated.
“This is not mandatory, so everybody has their own opinion about the vaccination. We all looked at it that way,” said Martinez, who received his first dose of a two-shot vaccination about two weeks ago. “The guys that want to get vaccinated had an opportunity to get vaccinated today and they did. And those guys that didn’t get it, the opportunity is still there for them.
“For whatever reason, it’s personal, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t get it in the future. Or if they don’t ever want to get it, that’s their choice.”
On Sunday night, the Nationals found out that first baseman Josh Bell, left fielder Kyle Schwarber, starter Jon Lester and second baseman Josh Harrison had been cleared for baseball activities. Bell, Schwarber and Harrison joined the team in St. Louis. Lester will soon begin throwing at the club’s alternate site in Fredericksburg, Va.
They were the last four 26-man roster players who were sidelined by testing positive for the virus or being exposed to an infected teammate. Closer Brad Hand, starter Patrick Corbin, infielder Jordy Mercer and catchers Yan Gomes and Alex Avila returned before Washington faced the Dodgers in Los Angeles this past weekend.
Most of team, coaches and staff was then vaccinated ahead of a three-game series with the Cardinals in St. Louis. The 85 percent required to relax protocols includes players at a given club’s alternate site, so reaching the threshold with the traveling party wouldn’t necessarily change any rules for the Nationals. Three teams have officially reached the 85 percent threshold, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
The Nationals’ next challenge is to navigate any side effects for their vaccinated players. Martinez is hopeful they won’t face many issues while playing the Cardinals or Arizona Diamondbacks this week.
“It’s more important that we got the vaccination when it was our turn and they deemed we were able to get it,” Martinez said. “If anybody gets sick or something, we’ll have to deal with that. I’m excited that these guys did get vaccinated.”
Chelsea Janes contributed to this report.