Five Phillies players and three staff members working at the team’s spring facility in Clearwater have tested positive for COVID-19, the organization said.
The identities of those infected were not released. None have required hospitalization, and NBC Sports Philadelphia, which first reported the news, said “the virus appears to be under control in all of them.‘'
The Phillies added that eight staff members tested negative, and they were awaiting results on tests for 32 others — 12 staff members and 20 other players (major- and minor-league) living in the Clearwater area. As a result, the Phillies have closed Spectrum Field and the adjacent minor-league facility, managing partner John Middleton said, “until medical authorities are confident that the virus is under control and our facilities are disinfected.‘'
The Blue Jays also shut their facility in Dunedin on Friday due to COVID-19 concerns, saying in a statement that team personnel were undergoing testing after “a player presented symptoms consistent with those of the virus.‘'
ESPN reported the player was a pitcher on the 40-man roster who recently spent time with Phillies minor-leaguers. GM Ross Atkins told ESPN, “We are being overly precautious with testing.‘'
By late Friday, Major League Baseball issued a directive for all spring training facilities in Florida and Arizona to be shut down temporarily for a deep cleaning, and that players and staff must test negatively for COVID-19 to be allowed in.
Tropicana Field and other major-league stadiums can remain open, and the Rays as of now plan to continue workouts there. Friday they had about 16 players there for throwing and hitting sessions done under social-distancing rules and various precautionary measures. The voluntary workouts for players on the 40-man roster have been held three times a week starting May 25.
Spring training camps were shut down in mid-March due to the pandemic, but after what was reported as a “deep and thorough” cleansing, the Phillies allowed players rehabilitating from injuries to continue treatments and workouts under a small staff.
That number grew to include other players who stayed or lived in the area. Catcher J.T. Realmuto worked out there regularly, and in mid-May The Athletic reported pitchers Aaron Nola, Héctor Neris, Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Ranger Suárez were among those working out there, though some just showed up to throw and left without going into the facilities. Also, some players returned home and others arrived in Clearwater over the last month as negotiations to start the season heated up.
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The Phillies said the first positive case was reported on Tuesday. Pinellas County health department officials said they could provide no details as information about epidemiological investigations was confidential.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the infections extend to family members (adults and children) who are not included in the eight positive tests announced by the team, that reliever Tommy Hunter (a former Ray) was among those infected, and that the team was doing contact tracing to get a better handle on the extent of the outbreak, the first reported among major-league teams.
The outbreak comes at a time when positive cases are increasing throughout the state and Tampa Bay area.
Also as baseball owners and players are working to complete extended negotiations on a plan to start the season, with the potential for Spring 2.0 camps to open as soon as June 26 and the season to start July 19. (MLB on Friday notified the union it would not make a counter offer to the 70-game proposal and decided the season will be no longer than 60 games.)
Here is the full statement from Middleton:
“The Phillies are committed to the health and welfare of our players, coaches and staff as our highest priority, and as a result of these confirmed tests, all facilities in Clearwater have been closed indefinitely to all players, coaches and staff and will remain closed until medical authorities are confident that the virus is under control and our facilities are disinfected.‘'
Also, the Phillies said it was “too early to know” to comment “in terms of the implications of this outbreak on the Phillies 2020 season.‘'
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