The opening series of the 2020 MLB regular season between the Marlins and Phillies has made it abundantly clear that this year is unlike any other. Prior to Friday’s Opening Day, primary catcher Jorge Alfaro was abruptly placed on the injured list. Then again on Sunday, the game’s probable starting pitcher, José Ureña, was scratched. Insider Jon Heyman was quick to confirm that Ureña’s absence was the result of a positive COVID-19 test.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the end of the story, as Heyman and Craig Mish continued to report on Twitter:
With caution and restrictions on names and testing, the best I can do is tell you the Marlins will likely be without at least three of their position players and one of their pitchers in the coming days. At the same time. Not sure how any team is supposed to overcome this.— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) July 26, 2020
This is a full-fledged outbreak as defined by the MLB Operations Manual. After several weeks without any new positive player tests, there has been a breach in the Marlins’ bubble. And that’s without even knowing how many non-player members of the traveling party have the virus.
All of Sunday’s starters are presumably COVID-19-free, but reporting from Heyman and Mish indicate that Ureña and Alfaro are affected. Ureña is currently asymptomatic, Heyman adds. Garrett Cooper also tested positive, according to Robert Murray. The fourth player is Harold Ramirez, per Heyman. As of Sunday afternoon, only Alfaro has been officially placed on the IL.
For this to happen while on the road in Philadelphia is an extreme inconvenience. The players who have just learned of their positive tests will not be able to fly home with the rest of the team. They must test negative two consecutive times and demonstrate that they aren’t exhibiting common symptoms. Molly Knight of The Athletic has more on this bizarre situation.
Mish anticipates Ureña, Alfaro, Cooper and Ramirez spending the next two weeks self-quarantining in their Philly hotel. It’s unclear what kind of baseball activities they would be able to do during that period. Even in a best-case scenario, the Marlins won’t have them active until deep into August.
During summer camp, outfielders Lewis Brinson and Matt Joyce were placed on the injured list (though COVID-19 was not publicly mentioned by either the players or the team). Brinson took an important step towards returning by participating in an intrasquad simulated game at the Marlins alternate training site in Jupiter on Sunday. Joyce has allegedly been working out in Jupiter, too.
Also, this ought to create an opportunity for prospect Monte Harrison (who played center field during the same sim game). The Marlins can guarantee themselves an extra year of club control over him—through the 2026 season—by waiting until Wednesday to call him up.