Martinez told reporters that he believes only one of the 12 infected individuals is unvaccinated. The outbreak was revealed after the whole traveling party took rapid tests in the wake of Turner’s positive result. Major League Baseball then pushed Wednesday’s game to Thursday, setting up a doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park and allowing the Nationals time for additional testing and contact tracing.
The results Thursday morning will decide whether the Nationals can take the field at 12:05 p.m. Martinez said Wednesday evening that, aside from the 12 who tested positive, no one else had been put in mandatory quarantine. He added that players have to receive back-to-back negative results before returning — and while some of those infected individuals are showing mild symptoms, none are “really, really ill.”
“I am very concerned,” Martinez said on a video call Wednesday. “We all took rapid tests today. We’ll follow up, we’ll get additional results [Thursday]. Hopefully no one else will test positive. But yes, there is some concern here right now. As soon as the game got canceled, I got everybody out of here and on a bus and back to the hotel. I want to do the same thing myself.”
This is the third time this season that the virus has entered Washington’s clubhouse. The team’s Opening Day was delayed four games after four players tested positive; and nine others were in quarantine as close contacts. In mid-May, Erick Fedde tested positive despite being vaccinated. Tanner Ranney, his unvaccinated teammate, had to isolate as a close contact. And now the schedule is paused again, with the team needing to add minor league fill-ins and avoid an even wider spread.
By June 1, the Nationals reached the 85 percent vaccination threshold to ease a handful of coronavirus protocols. But that 85 percent accounts for any Tier 1 employee in the organization, not specifically the traveling party that is in Philadelphia. Vaccinated players, coaches and staff are no longer tested regularly. Unvaccinated players, coaches and staff still are.
When asked Tuesday whether Turner is vaccinated, Martinez said he couldn’t comment on the matter. Yet when Fedde tested positive this spring, the Nationals immediately clarified that the infected player was vaccinated.
A bulk of the traveling party received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine in mid-April. On Wednesday, one Nationals player walked into the dugout, nodded to the clubhouse and made an explosion motion with his hands. The implication was clear.
“Thus far, nobody has gotten very sick, which is a good thing,” Martinez said. “And I do believe that the vaccinations have helped that in a big way. Once again, I encourage people to get vaccinated. It does help. I’ve seen it first hand. The guys that are getting sick, it’s just basically like a small head cold, but they’re doing fine.”
Before the game was officially postponed, a handful of Nationals players and staff milled around the field. The players included Max Scherzer, Josh Harrison, Josh Bell, Gerardo Parra, Yan Gomes, Carter Kieboom, Paolo Espino, Kyle Finnegan, Sam Clay, Ryne Harper‚ Wander Suero, Jefry Rodriguez and Kyle McGowin. The staff members included pitching coach Jim Hickey; bullpen coach Henry Blanco; bullpen catchers Octavio Martinez and Brett Austin; Jon Tosches, the team’s advance scouting director; and video coordinator Kenny Diaz.
Later, once most were back at the team hotel, Kyle Schwarber and head athletic trainer Dale Gilbert played catch in left. The bullpen and dugout had long been cleared for the night. This was already a hectic stretch for the Nationals, who are looking to sell a number of veterans ahead of Friday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline. Scherzer, their most valuable chip, has drawn interest from the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants, among a handful of other teams, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. Steady rumors hang above everything Washington (46-54) does.
The front office could also get prospects in return for relievers Daniel Hudson and Brad Hand, Harrison, Gomes or Schwarber, who is recovering from a strained right hamstring. It is very possible that a quite different club faces the Chicago Cubs in Washington this weekend. So Wednesday’s coronavirus situation just stacked on uncertainty on uncertainty, in a way that only 2021 can.
“I’m just worried about the guys. I really am,” Martinez said. “It’s been a tough go. This doesn’t make it any easier.”