The start of any spring training typically includes issues and problems popping up.
This year, that includes dealing with the results of COVID-19 intake screening and testing.
Manager Kevin Cash said Friday the Rays are “missing a handful of people” from camp, which opened with Wednesday’s reporting day, and “everybody to date is doing really well.’'
He didn’t provide specifics as to who or why, as the reasons extend beyond positive tests, including quarantine required due to close contacts or exposure to people with symptoms. Other issues could be inconclusive test results or a false positive result. And there can be a delay for additional testing.
Those missing include pitchers Phoenix Sanders and Drew Strotman, major-league coach Paul Hoover, and minor-league coaches Michael Johns and Brady Williams.
That is in addition to reliever Diego Castillo and catcher Francisco Mejia, who were late reporting because they had to quarantine after arriving from the Dominican Republic. They were at the complex Friday for testing and, if cleared, are expected to join workouts next week.
The Rays could have further issues next week as position players are going through the intake testing and screening process.
For now, the Rays are sorting out how to share information about the absences, given the different reasons players and staff could be sidelined.
“We had intake issues,” Cash said on a Zoom call after Friday’s workout in Port Charlotte. “It’s still a very delicate situation. I think we’re still working through how we’re going to go about announcing and getting it out front. The tricky thing is you’re going to have COVID protocol issues probably throughout spring and throughout the season, and then you’re going to have COVID isolation, that you know somebody gets kind of caught in the fire, just because they were around the person. So, we’re still working. I’m still working how to balance that.”
Unless a player shares details, the team controls the flow of information, since media are not allowed into spring major-league facilities until the start of full-squad workouts next week. Plus, tracking who is seen on the fields is not necessarily a reliable practice, as players can have days when they are not working out or given the vast places and times players can do workouts.
Cash said the Rays’ medical staff, led by Joe Benge and Mike Sandoval, expected some issues as players traveled to Port Charlotte from their offseason homes and adjusted to the spring routine, and the hope is most of the issues are resolved in the first two weeks.
“(Players) come down here, they bunk up, they get an apartment together, they rent a house, whatever it is. One guy has symptoms or a false positive or a positive. Well, that person living with him then has to be responsibly held out, as well. So I think we’re going to deal with that quite a bit.
“... These next 10 days to 14, I think will be pretty telling. ... If we can get through that, I think we’ll be in a good spot. But we’re really focused on doing everything we can, to do as well as we can, in this first 14 days.”