Red Sox relief pitchers Josh Taylor and Darwinzon Hernandez have tested positive for COVID-19, manager Ron Roenicke announced on Saturday afternoon.
Taylor is in a Boston hotel and will be isolated for 14 days. Hernandez, however, is still at home and will have to test negative twice before flying. Roenicke is unsure if either will be ready for the start of the season.
"Any time anybody is positive it impacts what happens at the start of the season, just because it's a shortened summer camp," Roenicke said. "We'll see how it goes. I can't tell you that [they're] not going to be ready because it depends on how far along [they] are in the stages of the virus."
Roenicke added that Taylor is in deeper stages of the virus than Hernandez and is hopeful he will see negative test results soon. Starter Eduardo Rodriguez is still awaiting his test results before flying to Boston.
“I heard about our guys [testing positive],” said righthander Nate Eovaldi. “It’s definitely unfortunate. We wish them a fast recovery, and hopefully it’s not as severe for them as it’s been for certain people. It’s just part of it. It’s one of those viruses that you can’t really prevent.”
Major League Baseball announced Friday that out of 3,185 tests conducted to that point, 38 came back positive. including 31 from players. But on Saturday, more players tested positive, including Braves star Freddie Freeman and three of his teammates. The Royals announced that catcher Salvador Perez had tested positive.
Taylor and Hernandez are integral parts of the bullpen, so losing them for any amount of time isn’t ideal. Taylor, 27, made quite an impression in 2019, his first full season in the big leagues. In 47⅓ innings, he struck out 62 and compiled a 3.04 ERA. Hernandez, 23, and also a rookie last season, went eight straight appearances, Aug. 20-Sept. 6 without giving up a run. Hernandez had a 2.83 ERA until his last four appearances, where he seemed to have hit a wall. He finished with a 4.45 ERA in 30⅓ innings.
Eovaldi and Josh Osich threw simulated games Saturday, each three innings.
Catchers Christian Vazquez, Jonathan Lucroy, Kevin Plawecki, and Juan Centeno, in addition to prospect Connor Wong, stood in against both pitchers. Alex Verdugo also got at-bats.
Eovaldi was the more impressive. He struck out the side in the first inning and was dominant with his upper-90s fastball. He even flashed a few sliders — a pitch he threw just 3 percent of the time last year — that fooled hitters. Centeno found the barrel once against Eovaldi, squaring up a pitch to deep center. Other than that, Eovaldi had his way.
“Eovaldi, he and Eduardo are probably the guys that are furthest along,” Roenicke said. “[Eovaldi’s] velocity is already up where it’s going to be. We feel really good with, in three weeks’ time, starting the season with him.”
The Red Sox utilized the facilities at Boston College for the first time on Saturday. The workout was led by Triple A Pawtucket manager Billy McMillon. Roenicke said four position players, in addition to some pitchers, got in their work.
The group on Sunday will be larger, with about 18 pitchers. As of Saturday afternoon, the team still was sorting out which position players might go to BC.
“We might flip-flop some [position players] over there,” said Roenicke.
Collin McHugh (flexor tendon strain) made another step in his progression with a bullpen session. “He looked good,” Roenicke said. “I was talking to [pitching coach] Dave Bush about him, he let it go every few pitches. It looked good. I thought the ball was coming out nice and clean I thought the effort level was there. He’s pretty smooth. Nice, easy delivery. I think he was happy with how the bullpen went.” … Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers, and Mitch Moreland made their summer camp debuts. Martinez hit on the field in the morning, while Bogaerts, Devers, and Moreland took in the view from outside their temporary clubhouse on the suite level. All three eventually took batting practice in addition to infield work. Matt Barnes threw a bullpen session, too.