ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays had a COVID-19 issue of their own to deal with as the World Series was ending, as the wife of one of their players tested positive.
The player has not been identified. He and his wife did not fly with the team back to Tampa on Wednesday night, instead renting a car and driving home. The positive test was processed on Tuesday, the day of the final game.
The wives and kids staying with the Rays players in the bubble hotel traveled to the games on a chartered bus and sat in a private area at Globe Life Field. About 15 players had their wives with them.
As of Thursday, no other Rays personnel had tested positive, including the player whose wife had the positive test. With the Series over, they are no longer under Major League Baseball’s daily testing program and are on their own. The incubation period for the coronavirus can last for around five days.
Multiple sources confirmed the story to the Tampa Bay Times. The Rays declined to confirm the story or address specifics of the situation.
“Our club’s priority throughout 2020 has been the health and safety of our players, staff and the people around them,” general manager Erik Neander said Thursday night. “We’re grateful this priority was matched by everybody involved with this special and unprecedented season.”
Tuesday was also when news broke of the positive test for Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, who was pulled immediately from the game and is now under investigation for violating protocols by returning to the field.
As a result of the positive tests, all personnel with both teams were given rapid nasal swab tests immediately upon returning to the hotel Tuesday night and then saliva tests on Wednesday morning. All common areas at the hotel were shut down, and food was only available for in-room delivery.
Rays personnel returning to Tampa Bay after possible exposure to the infected person are not under any local or state-mandated restrictions to quarantine. The Florida Department of Health does recommend anyone “in close contact” with someone who has COVID-19 “stay home for 14 days as isolated as possible.”
Given that the Rays have placed a priority on health and safety issues throughout the season and adhering to guidelines, the players who had their wives with them and may have been exposed to the infected person may have or will travel back to the Tampa Bay area on their own. Some players went from Dallas directly to their offseason homes.
The trip back for the main Rays group was rough, anyway, as the flight carrying the players, staff and executives was delayed more than five hours due to a mechanical issue and didn’t land in Tampa until around midnight. The plane carrying staff that was not in the bubble landed around 6 p.m. as scheduled.
Rays personnel on the delayed flight were kept on the plane the entire time, with food eventually brought in as no meal service was planned. When a repair was not possible, another plane was made available and the entire group was transferred to the new plane by bus.
Capping the travel hassle, the bus taking them from the airport to Tropicana Field took the wrong exit in downtown St. Petersburg.
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Had the Series not ended in Game 6, Major League Baseball officials would have been faced with a difficult decision about whether to proceed with Game 7 as scheduled on Wednesday or delay the conclusion to allow for additional time for testing.
League officials are continuing with an investigation of Turner’s actions after he was informed of the positive test and removed from the game. He returned to the field in defiance of protocol and instructions to celebrate with teammates and pose for photographs after the game.
The only initial free agent among the Rays major-league players is lefty reliever Aaron Loup, who signed a minor-league contract just before spring training and played for $1.65 million, with the potential for up to $500,000 in incentives based on appearances.
Loup pitched in 24 games during the regular season, positing a 3-2, 2.52 record over 25 innings. In the postseason, Loup pitched in nine games with a 3.38 ERA.
The Rays could have two other free agents by Sunday, as they have to decide whether to pick up team options on pitcher Charlie Morton ($15 million) and catcher Mike Zunino ($4.5 million).
Morton, who has said several times he very much wants to stay with the Rays, was 2-2, 4.74 in nine starts during the season, missing three-plus weeks with shoulder inflammation. He was 3-1, 2.70 in four postseason starts and would have been on the mound for Game 7 had the Rays advanced.
Zunino hit .147 with four homers, 10 RBIs and a .598 OPS in 28 games, missing nearly a month with an oblique strain. In 19 postseason games, he hit .170 with four homers, eight RBIs and a .593 OPS.
The Rays could part ways, either via trade or by non-tender decisions, with some of the 10 players they have already eligible for arbitration. That group includes pitchers Jose Alvarado, Yonny Chirinos, Tyler Glasnow, Chaz Roe, Ryan Yarbrough; infielders Ji-Man Choi and Joey Wendle; outfielders Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe; and catcher Kevan Smith. Infielder Yandy Diaz and reliever Diego Castillo also could be eligible depending on the cutoff for Super 2 eligibility.
Neander and Rays manager Kevin Cash will hold a season wrap-up media session on Friday.