Rays’ All-Star contingent tests negative for coronavirus

The Yankees reportedly have quarantined one or more of their All-Stars present at Tuesday’s game in Denver.
American League All-Star Aaron Judge of the Yankees greets manager Kevin Cash of the Rays after scoring in the second inning Tuesday in Denver.
American League All-Star Aaron Judge of the Yankees greets manager Kevin Cash of the Rays after scoring in the second inning Tuesday in Denver. [ GABRIEL CHRISTUS | AP ]
Published July 16, 2021|Updated July 16, 2021

The Rays got good news on Friday, as manager Kevin Cash said all rapid tests done on the Rays’ All-Star contingent were negative.

Amid reports that at least one Yankees player tested positive at Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Denver, all members of the Rays’ All-Star group underwent the testing before flying to Atlanta on Friday morning for their weekend series.

That group includes catcher Mike Zunino, infielder Joey Wendle, reliever Andrew Kittredge, manager Kevin Cash, the full coaching and athletic training staffs, and other support staffers, more than 25 in all.

Results of Friday morning’s rapid tests will dictate what other action, if any, is needed.

On Thursday, the Yankees’ post-All-Star break opener against the Red Sox was postponed because of positive coronavirus tests among vaccinated New York pitchers Jonathan Loaisiga, Nestor Cortes and Wandy Peralta.

“It’s a fluid situation that could spread. It has spread to some degree,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said at the time. “We have three positives, and we have three pending that we’ve had rapid tests on.”

Loaisiga went on the COVID-19 injured list Saturday, when the team was in Houston, and he did not travel home Sunday. Cortes and Peralta went on the COVID-19 IL on Thursday.

Cashman said all three pitchers were fully vaccinated, as are most of the players on the team. Among the three, two received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and the other was either Pfizer or Moderna, according to Cashman.

“Those players are doing well thus far,” he said. “And that would speak again to the belief that those vaccinations are working and ultimately they’re to protect us from severe illness and/or death.”

The three players awaiting lab results are in quarantine. Cashman would not say whether they include the Yankees’ All-Stars who were in Denver: outfielder Aaron Judge, ace Gerrit Cole and closer Aroldis Chapman.

ESPN reported that Judge, catcher Kyle Higashioka and third baseman Gio Urshela are the three in quarantine.

Major League Baseball was conducting contact tracing under its protocols.

“The vaccines that we encourage everybody to get guarantee not getting hospitalized and not getting death coming from COVID, which is important, but it doesn’t prevent you from contracting COVID,” Cashman said. “It just obviously protects you from the severe worst-case scenario effects from COVID.”

Cashman said MLB had not yet decided whether to postpone Friday night’s second scheduled game of the four-game series.

“The last year, year and a half, has kind of in some ways kind of prepared you for this kind of stuff,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Certainly disappointing and frustrating.”

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This is the eighth COVID-related postponement this season but the first in nearly three months. There were 45 regular-season games postponed for virus-related reasons during last year’s pandemic-shortened season. Only two were not made up.

New York, fourth in the AL East at a disappointing 46-43, was among the first MLB teams to reach the 85 percent vaccination threshold that triggers a lessening of coronavirus protocols such as dropping mask use in dugouts and bullpens.

MLB said in its most recent announcement on June 25 that 23 of its 30 teams had reached 85 percent vaccinations among tier 1 individuals such as players and on-field staff. The Red Sox were not among them.

Despite all those vaccinations, the Yankees had more than a half-dozen positive tests in May involving staff, including pitching coach Matt Blake, third-base coach Phil Nevin and first-base coach Reggie Willits. Nevin, 50, despite being vaccinated, became seriously ill with a kidney infection that kept him away from the team for more than three weeks.

Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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