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Days after restarting, Nationals and Astros cancel practice due to coronavirus testing delays

The Nationals' Michael Taylor (left) speaks with a coach during a workout on Friday at Nationals Stadium in Washington, D.C.
The Nationals' Michael Taylor (left) speaks with a coach during a workout on Friday at Nationals Stadium in Washington, D.C.Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Baseball’s two World Series teams canceled workouts Monday because of coronavirus testing delays that one executive worried could endanger the season.

The defending champion Washington Nationals and reigning American League champion Houston Astros each called off training camp practices after not receiving test results from Friday. The cancellations come amid delays around Major League Baseball, with some players opting out, and in the aftermath of Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle criticizing slow test results and a lack of some personal protective equipment.

“Without accurate and timely testing, it is simply not safe for us to continue with summer camp,” Washington general manager Mike Rizzo said. “Major League Baseball needs to work quickly to resolve issues with their process and their lab. Otherwise, summer camp and the 2020 season are at risk.”

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Astros general manager James Click said the delay in testing results and the contagious nature of the coronavirus led to the decision to cancel a full day of workouts.

“Despite these delays over the holiday weekend, we’re optimistic that this process will be ironed out and we’ll be back on the field and ready to compete for a championship soon,” Click said.

Hours later, the Astros said they had received the delayed test results and would work out Tuesday.

MLB said in a statement that 95% of its intake testing had been completed and that the Utah laboratory it's using had reported 98% of results, a majority of those a day after samples were collected. MLB said it addressed delays caused by the holiday weekend, doesn't expect them to continue and commended teams for canceling workouts.

But frustration is building around the majors over testing delays.

The Los Angeles Angels were forced to collect their own saliva samples Sunday when testers didn’t show up at their camp training complexes in Anaheim or Long Beach. They also delayed their workouts Monday to accommodate the testers, eventually turning their usual morning drills into an optional afternoon session.

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Angels manager Joe Maddon believes “this will be a short-lived situation” and pinned the problem on the holiday weekend.

“I want to believe everything will get straightened out relatively soon,” Maddon said. “I think it’s just one of those moments that was hard to foresee coming into it, but I’ve got a lot of confidence that it’s going to be fixed.”

The Oakland Athletics have yet to have a full-squad workout as they await test results, with manager Bob Melvin optimistic it could be soon. The Arizona Diamondbacks pushed back Monday's workout a few hours, hoping to get additional results from tests that were taken on Friday.

“I think if we really want this to succeed, we’re going to have to figure that out,” said Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, who voiced concern that some teammates haven’t been tested in a week. “If you can’t really nail the easy part, which is right now ... we’ve got a big hill to climb.”

Meanwhile, players continue to test positive or opt out of playing.

Texas Rangers All-Star outfielder Joey Gallo was isolating at his Dallas apartment Monday after two positive test results sandwiched around a negative. General manager Jon Daniels said Gallo was asymptomatic.

“You had to have the mindset that there were going to be some kinks to be worked out,” Daniels said. “It’s just not realistic to roll out an operation of this scale on as quick a timeline as we’ve had and not deal with some challenges.”

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Atlanta Braves outfielder Nick Markakis on Monday became the latest high-profile player to choose not to play this season. Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher David Price, Colorado Rockies infielder Ian Desmond, Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, and Braves pitcher Felix Hernandez are among those who have opted out.

Multiple Blue Jays players didn’t make the trip to Toronto for training camp after one player tested positive for the coronavirus, according to an official familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about it. Players who were in contact with the unnamed player will remain in Florida for further testing and take a charter later in the week if cleared.

Two Nationals players were among the 31 to test positive during intake testing last week. Manager Dave Martinez said Sunday some of the 60 Nationals players tested were still awaiting results.

“We’ve hit some bumpy roads,” Martinez said. “But they’re doing the best they can. I know they are. They’re working on cleaning everything up. We’re in a very, very different situation. No one’s ever done this before. So I know they’re working out all the bugs.”

Doolittle, who is still on the fence about playing this season, said he still hadn't gotten his Friday results back before being tested again Sunday.

“That’s one thing that makes me a little nervous,” Doolittle said. “We’re not getting tests back in time. They still haven’t sent us the PPE. We’re supposed to have N95 masks, stuff like that, gowns, gloves. We’re supposed to have that stuff, we don’t have that stuff. Those are the things it’s going to take for people to stay safe enough for us to continue this season.”

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Not every team is dissatisfied with the testing process. Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell said things are going smoothly with his club.

“There’s a lot of hard work that goes into the logistics of setting this up,” Counsell said. “There’s going to be snags in this. I think we all know that. But I’m pleased with how it’s gone so far.”








Baseball’s two World Series finalists canceled workouts Monday because of COVID-19 testing delays that one executive worried could endanger the baseball season.

The defending champion Washington Nationals and reigning American League champion Houston Astros each called off training camp practices after not receiving test results from Friday. The cancellations come amid delays around Major League Baseball, with some players opting out, and in the aftermath of Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle criticizing slow test results and a lack of some personal protective equipment.

“We will not sacrifice the health and safety of our players, staff and their families,” Washington general manager Mike Rizzo said. "Without accurate and timely testing, it is simply not safe for us to continue with summer camp. Major League Baseball needs to work quickly to resolve issues with their process and their lab. Otherwise, summer camp and the 2020 season are at risk.”

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Astros general manager James Click said the delay in testing results and the contagious nature of the coronavirus led to the decision to cancel a full day of workouts.

“Despite these delays over the holiday weekend, we’re optimistic that the this process will be ironed out and we’ll be back on the field and ready to compete for a championship soon,” Click said.

Atlanta Braves outfielder Nick Markakis on Monday became the latest high-profile player to choose not to play this season. Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher David Price, Colorado Rockies infielder Ian Desmond, Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and Braves pitcher Felix Hernandez are among those who have opted out.

Two Nationals players were among the 31 to test positive during intake testing last week. Manager Dave Martinez said Sunday some of the 60 Nationals players tested were still awaiting results.

“Obviously, this is all new for everybody,” Martinez said. “We’ve hit some bumpy roads. But they’re doing the best they can. I know they are. They’re working on cleaning everything up. We’re in a very, very different situation. No one’s ever done this before. So I know they’re working out all the bugs.”

Doolittle, who is still on the fence about playing this season, said he still hadn't gotten his Friday results back before being tested again Sunday.

“That’s one thing that makes me a little nervous,” Doolittle said. ”We’re not getting tests back in time. They still haven’t sent us the PPE. We’re supposed to have N-95 masks, stuff like that, gowns, gloves. We’re supposed to have that stuff, we don’t have that stuff. Those are the things it’s going to take for people to stay safe enough for us to continue this season."

In Oakland, two projected members of the Athletics’ starting rotation, Mike Fiers and Jesus Luzardo, missed their second consecutive workout Sunday because of what manager Bob Melvin called a “pending” issue without elaborating.

Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Sunday several players, including All-Star Joey Gallo, still needed to complete intake testing. He hopes it's a startup issue that won't persist.

“Once a player is tested and is through the intake process and is part of the team, on the follow-up tests, if things take longer at that time, the player continues and stays on the field with the team while these follow-ups are going through,” Daniels said. “It’s just, the front end is taking longer than I think it will throughout the year.”

Not every team is dissatisfied with the testing process. Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell said medical director Roger Caplinger is making things go smoothly.

“There’s a lot of hard work that goes into the logistics of setting this up,” Counsell said Monday. “There’s going to be snags in this. I think we all know that. But I’m pleased with how it’s gone so far.”