ST. PETERSBURG — The Yankees headed out of town after Thursday’s game, leaving behind the eight players, coaches and staff who tested positive for COVID-19, despite being vaccinated, who have to quarantine in Tampa.
Shortstop Gleyber Torres was the latest addition to the list, having played in Tuesday’s game, held out Wednesday pending test results, then announced Thursday as a positive, having had COVID in the offseason.
Though there was interaction between the Yankees and the clubhouse and stadium staff, and the potential for exposure on and off the field, player rep Tyler Glasnow said the Rays were “fine” with the games being played and the overall handling of the situation by Major League Baseball. The Rays, like the Yankees, have reached the 85 percent vaccination threshold.
“With all vaccines and stuff, it’s clear that ... they’re obviously less concerned about it,” Glasnow said. “I feel like if this was last year, there’d be a canceled game without any questions. So I think they have a good grip on what’s going on, and from what I know, no one from our team’s tested positive or anything. So there’s definitely some separation from (the Yankees’) side.”
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the games were “never in jeopardy” of being postponed under MLB’s guidance and he updated Rays counterpart Erik Neander several times a day.
“We are utilizing their visiting clubhouse, which is serviced by their employees that handle our players while they’re there, we’re obviously competing against their employees in their environment,” Cashman said. “We’re trying to be as open and transparent as we legally can because I know that this is an understandable newsworthy event (in how vaccinated people can still get the virus, though without severe symptoms).”
That includes, Cashman said, “telling the Rays what we’re experiencing, what we’re going through, and then giving them the opportunity to tell us what they need from us to make themselves more comfortable. The Rays have been fantastic.”
Castillo set to return
The Rays optioned reliever Louis Head to Triple-A Durham after the game, clearing a spot for the expected activation of high-leverage reliever Diego Castillo on Friday. Castillo has been out since May 4 due to right groin tightness. In 14 appearances before being sidelined, he was 0-2, 3.14, with seven saves in nine chances. … Pitcher Michael Wacha still felt some tightness in his right hamstring in a Thursday throwing session and will need at least one more in a few days before being activated. ... Reliever Chris Mazza, out since late April with shoulder inflammation, felt good after throwing 25 pitches Thursday and soon could face hitters.
Choi still ‘not quite ready’
Ji-Man Choi took a few steps closer to joining the Rays by taking batting practice on the field Thursday, but was “just not quite ready yet” due to soreness in his surgically repaired right knee.
“In fairness, there is going to be some soreness in there,” manager Kevin Cash said. “We’re going to try to just find that right time to when he feels good about him being able to bounce back. It’ll be just day to day, my guess, and just constant communication with him and (head athletic trainer) Joe Benge.”
Timing is somewhat of the essence, as Choi played the last of his six rehab games at Triple-A Durham on Tuesday. If he were to need more than a few days to feel comfortable with his knee, he may have to rejoin the Bulls for more game action.
“He can’t take too much time off because he’s worked hard, we’ve worked hard, to get him timed up at the plate,” Cash said. “We don’t want to have that many days off to where he’s not seeing live pitching. So the hope is that doesn’t happen, but I don’t think it’s something that we can rule out yet.”
⋅ The Mets, who held spring training in St. Petersburg from their 1962 inception through 1987, make their fifth regular-season visit to Tropicana Field, first since 2015. It will be a homecoming for first baseman Pete Alonso, a Tampa native.
⋅ Catcher Mike Zunino, who caught six straight games with Francisco Mejia hurt, had Thursday off.
⋅ Top prospect Wander Franco went 2-for-3, Vidal Brujan 1-for-4 and Taylor Walls 0-for-3 in Durham’s 7-2 loss to Jacksonville in the first of two Thursday games.
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