Baseball is back Thursday — but now without one of its brightest young stars.
Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto has tested positive for coronavirus, GM Mike Rizzo has confirmed, and will miss the team’s opening night game Thursday against the New York Yankees. Soto, along the pitching matchup between Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer was to be a long-awaited, star-studded return for MLB. He’ll be sidelined indefinitely, not able to return until he tests negative twice, according to MLB’s protocols.
Nats GM Mike Rizzo says Juan Soto is on the COVID-19 IL after positive test and is asymptomatic. Needs two negative tests to return.
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) July 23, 2020
Rizzo told reporters Thursday that Soto tested on Tuesday and the results came in Thursday morning.
Soto has also taken two instant-result coronavirus tests that came back negative, Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post reports.
Sources: Juan Soto took multiple instant-result coronavirus tests today — both saliva and nasal — and the results were negative. The tests were conducted by the team, which is permitted by MLB protocol as a point-of-care option when rapid testing is necessary.
— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) July 23, 2020
Soto is asymptomatic. No other Nationals players have been deemed ineligible by contact tracing, so the rest of the roster was able to play Thursday.
Nats' statment clarifying what happened with the contact tracing after Soto’s positive test:
“Contact tracing was conducted and none of our players or staff were deemed to have met the CDC definition of close contact. We will continue to follow MLB’s protocols and guidelines.”
— Hannah Keyser (@HannahRKeyser) July 24, 2020
Soto was the runner-up to the Rookie of the Year in 2018 and had a stellar 2019 season in which he helped the Nats win a World Series and saw his star soar in the postseason. Manager Dave Martinez said the news of Soto’s positive test rocked the club Thursday morning.
“It hit us,” he told reporters. “It hit us hard.”
Martinez said Andrew Stevenson will start in left field against the Yankees Thursday night.
It’s not surprising that coronavirus — which has turned the world upside-down and basically halted sports in America — would interfere with the return of MLB and sideline one of the game’s best young players. It’s a reminder that while baseball games may be returning, there’s still plenty of risk out there for the sport and its players.
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