ATLANTA — Any worries that members of the Rays’ 25-plus person contingent at the All-Star Game had been infected were alleviated Friday morning with negative coronavirus tests conducted at Tropicana Field before the team flight to Atlanta.
“We were all concerned,’' manager Kevin Cash said. “MLB really felt it would be best for all the participants at the All-Star Game to go ahead and get tested. … Fortunately for us, we were all negative.’'
The players, coaches and staff attending Tuesday’s game in Denver were targeted after All-Star Aaron Judge was reportedly one of six Yankees to test positive. Many of the Rays had interactions with Judge, who is not vaccinated.
Cash said the one round of rapid testing should be sufficient, pending further direction from league officials. “To my knowledge, that was it,’' he said. “But that could change. I mean, if they tell us to test again, we gladly will.’'
Rays All-Star catcher Mike Zunino said that since he was vaccinated, he was not too concerned about being infected, though there have been some breakthrough cases.
“I felt pretty confident that I didn’t have to have any further worry, but you never know,’' he said. “We’ve seen this happen before. It’s one of those things, it is what it is. It can happen at any time. I’m just hoping it doesn’t spread too far.’'
Infielder Joey Wendle and pitcher Andrew Kittredge, the Rays’ two other All-Stars, also said they were not worried.
“Obviously with an event like that, you always want to be extremely cautious with it,’' Zunino said “But it seems like, hopefully on our end, all is good. Hopefully we can continue to stay diligent in what we’ve been doing and guys can continue to stay healthy and COVID-free.
“We’ve done such a great job here. The guys are very responsible. We feel as if we’re a family here, and we don’t want to put anybody at risk. So we’ll continue to be cautious and have each other’s best interest in mind.’'
Georgia natives Austin Meadows and Taylor Walls have a lot of support during their first big-league games in Atlanta, both Rays players expecting 100 or more fans for each of the three games.
Meadows grew up in relatively nearby Grayson; Walls is from Cordele, which is more than two hours away.
“A lot of hometown support,’' Walls said. “It feels good. I’ve been seeing it the past couple weeks on social media, whether it’s Facebook, stuff like that, people tagging me or messaging me, ‘Hey, we’re coming. We’ve got a group of 15-20 people coming.’ I’m like, ‘Man.’ There’s been a bunch of people telling me that, so it’s going to add up to be quite a bit of people from there.’’
• The Rays decided after Friday’s game that second-year lefty Josh Fleming would start Saturday night rather than work behind an opener.
• Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier moved into third place on the team’s all-time steals list with his 103rd.
• High-leverage reliever Nick Anderson, sidelined since spring with an elbow sprain, did well Friday in his first session throwing to hitters, taking the mound in Port Charlotte. “He was, I think, 90-93 (mph) fastball, low 80s with his curveball, came away feeling really good with it, so that’s great news,’' Cash said. … Chris Archer, out since early April with an elbow issue, will make his second rehab outing on Saturday night, for Triple-A Durham.
• The Rays made the hour flight to Atlanta on Friday morning rather than Thursday night to extend their All-Star break a bit. But Cash said it “was a little bit of a weird flight, generally, to get on a plane at 11 in the morning and then play the same day. But it was good to get in the clubhouse today.’'
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