NORTH PORT, Fla. — The Red Sox were released from protocol prison on Monday when it was determined Matt Barnes has a non-infectious case of asymptomatic COVID-19.
Barnes and the players who were deemed to be in close contact with him were cleared to rejoin the team.
A major league source told the Globe that Barnes tested negatively multiple times after a test came back positive on Saturday. He also never exhibited any symptoms of the virus.
The Joint COVID-19 Health and Safety Committee, which consists of one MLB and one MLB Players Association representative as well as two physicians, cleared Barnes as a result.
The committee determined Barnes’s positive test result was consistent with an inactive or non-infectious result. MLB’s protocols initially treat any positive as an active infection requiring isolation of any team members in close contact.
After the additional testing, it was decided that neither Barnes nor any of his close contacts were a risk to others.
“I don’t know about the details. I’m just happy that he’s going to be back with us, and it seems like we’re going to be at full strength in a few days,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said.
Outside of Barnes and righthander Matt Andriese, the Red Sox had not specifically identified the players involved. But two other pitchers, Garrett Richards and Garrett Whitlock, had been absent since the news of the positive test broke on Saturday.
Barnes was competing with Adam Ottavino to be the team’s closer. Richards was lined up to pitch the second or third game of the regular season, while Andriese and Whitlock would have been in the bullpen.
After three days of being quarantined, it’s unclear if the four pitchers will be ready for the start of the season.
“It’s too soon to make decisions where they’re at,” Cora said. “I’m just happy that they’re going to be with us. That’s the most important thing.”
The Sox play Tuesday afternoon before flying back to Boston. There’s a day off Wednesday with Opening Day on Thursday at Fenway Park against the Baltimore Orioles.
A scheduled day off Friday gives the Sox more leeway if it’s determined Barnes and the others will need extra time.
“The good thing is we have options and we’re in a good place,” Cora said. “I think that Friday off day is going to benefit us.
“We’ll take advantage of that and make decisions on who can perform this weekend and go from there . . . we’ll meet as a group and make decisions.”
The Sox also have to determine what comes next for Eduardo Rodriguez, who missed his last start because of arm fatigue. Rodriguez threw in the bullpen again on Monday and is making progress.
“He looked good. The ball was coming in firm,” said Christian Vázquez, who caught Rodriguez. “He looked good, all the pitches.”
But Rodriguez hasn’t pitched in a game since March 22 and the Sox will be careful getting the lefthander ready after he missed all of last season recovering from myocarditis triggered by COVID-19.
“One thing for sure: We’re not going to rush him. He’s an important part of what we’re trying to accomplish,” Cora said.
“Obviously, with what he went through last year. His body, him, and obviously the testing that we do after bullpens and the next day will dictate what we do in the near future.
“But we’re comfortable this is something that’s obviously not going to take long. It’s just a matter of we have to be smart with it.”
Rodriguez could be backdated on the injured list and activated to pitch in the second series.
Tanner Houck pitched 4⅓ scoreless innings against the Atlanta Braves on Monday and struck out six. He could fill in for Rodriguez or Richards if needed.
“He’s in the conversation,” Cora said.
Houck’s strong performance against Atlanta’s starting lineup labels him as a trustworthy option if the Sox choose to give Richards and/or Rodriguez extra time.
“It brings a lot of confidence,” Houck said. “I’ve always had a lot of confidence in myself. I feel like my body’s in the best shape it ever has been.”
The Sox have Nate Eovaldi scheduled for Opening Day. They haven’t yet slotted in Martín Pérez or Nick Pivetta.
Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.