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Dodgers' Justin Turner tests positive for COVID-19, is pulled from World Series game, then comes back to celebrate

Manager Dave Roberts and third baseman Justin Turner pose with the World Series trophy after Turner tested positive for COVID-19 and was removed mid-game.
Manager Dave Roberts and third baseman Justin Turner pose with the World Series trophy after Turner tested positive for COVID-19 and was removed mid-game.Eric Gay/Associated Press

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ARLINGTON, Texas — No large dogpile, no champagne and a mask on nearly every face — the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrated their first World Series title since 1988 in a manner no one could have imagined prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

They started the party without Justin Turner, too, after their red-headed star received word of a positive COVID-19 test in the middle of their clinching victory.

Turner was removed from Los Angeles' 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6 on Tuesday night after registering Major League Baseball’s first positive test in 59 days. He wasn’t on the field initially as the Dodgers enjoyed the spoils of a title earned during a most unusual season.

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He returned to the diamond about an hour after the game, hugging longtime teammate Clayton Kershaw and sitting front-and-center for a team photo next to manager Dave Roberts with his mask pulled down under his bushy beard.

Justin Turner hugs a teammate while his wife Kourtney looks on after the game.
Justin Turner hugs a teammate while his wife Kourtney looks on after the game.Ronald Martinez/Getty

“Thanks to everyone reaching out!” Turner said on Twitter. “I feel great, no symptoms at all. Just experienced every emotion you can possibly imagine. Can’t believe I couldn’t be out there to celebrate with my guys! So proud of this team & unbelievably happy for the City of LA.”

Major League Baseball insulated postseason teams in neutral-site bubbles after traveling them across the country during a shortened 60-game season. Turner was the first player since the playoffs began to be flagged for the coronavirus.

MLB received Turner’s Monday sample from the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory in Utah in the bottom of the second inning, when lab president Dr. Daniel Eichner called deputy commissioner Dan Halem, who was in New York, a person familiar with the call said, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because details were not released.

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Eichner told Halem the result was inconclusive. MLB receives many inconclusive results, so Halem told Eichner to run Tuesday’s pregame sample from Turner. That result came back positive in the sixth inning, the person said.

Halem called Chris Young, MLB’s senior vice president of baseball operations, who was in Manfred’s box at Globe Life Field, then called Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. He notified the dugout or clubhouse, and Turner was removed from the game after the seventh inning.

“It was obviously a really unfortunate endpoint of this incredible series and definitely affected some of the joy of winning just because of what JT has meant to us,” Friedman said.

When asked about what happened after the game, Friedman said Turner wanted to take a picture with the trophy. Friedman stated several times that those around Turner had previously been in close contact and said the team would take another round of tests before determining when to leave Texas.

While Justin Turner wore a mask after being informed he had tested positive for COVID-19, he did not have to wear one in the dugout or on the field during the game.
While Justin Turner wore a mask after being informed he had tested positive for COVID-19, he did not have to wear one in the dugout or on the field during the game.Ronald Martinez/Getty

“Now the subsequent tests we’re going to take are really important,” Friedman said.

The 35-year-old Turner has been a staple in the Dodgers' lineup for seven of their eight consecutive NL West titles. A late-blooming slugger who helped reshape the game by succeeding with an upper-cut swing, Turner is LA’s career leader with 12 postseason home runs, including a pair in this Series, in which he hit .364 and also played stellar defense.

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“It’s gut-wrenching,” World Series MVP Corey Seager said. “If I could switch places with him right now, I would. That’s just not right.”

“We’re not excluding him from anything,” teammate Mookie Betts said.

Commissioner Rob Manfred confirmed Turner’s positive test moments after presenting the World Series trophy to Los Angeles — a jarring reminder of all that’s been different in this season where the perennially favored Dodgers finally broke through.

The end of a frustrating championship drought for LA — and perhaps just the start for Betts and the Dodgers, whose seventh World Series title was their sixth since leaving Brooklyn for the West Coast in 1958.

“I had a crazy feeling that came to fruition,” Roberts said. “It’s just a special group of players, organization, all that we’ve kind of overcome.”

Justin Turner, center, poses with his teammates after his positive COVID-19 test.
Justin Turner, center, poses with his teammates after his positive COVID-19 test.Ronald Martinez/Getty