ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The COVID-19 outbreak within the Red Sox is growing.
Both Martín Pérez and Matt Barnes went on the COVID-19 injured list following positive tests Monday, hours before the critical four-game series with the Rays. After the 6-1 loss, Cora said that quality control coach Rámon Vázquez tested positive as well.
The team is going through extensive testing to determine who else might have contracted the virus. Tom Goodwin did not coach first base in Monday’s game due to being a close contact. He was replaced by bench coach Will Venable, who tested positive for COVID-19 in Toronto on Aug. 7 and was forced to quarantine in Canada.
Reliever Josh Taylor also was considered a close contact and had to be removed from the field in the fifth inning.
The Sox have six positive cases, including Kiké Hernández, Christian Arroyo, and strength and conditioning coach Kiyoshi Momose, plus two close contacts.
“It’s not easy,” said Cora after the game, who admitted he was fatigued regarding all the COVID issues. “But it’s not only happening here but all over the world. That’s the way I see it. And I’m just glad that the people that are positive, feel OK.”
The timing of this outbreak couldn’t be worse for the Sox, who haven’t reached (and likely won’t) the 85 percent vaccination threshold at which Major League Baseball allows for relaxed protocols. Monday was the first of seven games with American League-leading Tampa in 10 days, and the Red Sox sit nine games behind the Rays with 29 to play.
“They’ve done an amazing job lately, separating themselves from us,” Cora said of Tampa before the game. “It’s still there because we’ve got seven games against them. But at the same time, you have to be realistic. You got to start playing better baseball for that to happen. We’ll take it day by day. That’s something that with everything that’s going on, is a reminder that we better stay in the present.”
The Red Sox were 2½ games behind the Yankees for the right to host the wild-card game pending New York’s game at the Angels, and two games ahead of Oakland for the AL’s final playoff berth.
With the Sox as taxi-squad members are pitchers Phillips Valdez, Raynel Espinal, and John Schreiber; catcher Connor Wong; and infielder Jack Lopez. To replace Barnes and Pérez, the Sox added Valdez and Espinal, who pitched the final two innings Monday and surrendered two runs.
Picking up Brad Peacock
The Red Sox acquired starter Brad Peacock from the Indians for cash considerations. Peacock is in St. Petersburg, and there’s a chance he could be activated for Tuesday’s contest.
After spending eight years with the Astros, Peacock became a free agent in October, then signed with Cleveland on June 25. Assigned to Triple A Columbus, he posted a 7.68 ERA in 11 games, 10 of which were starts.
The Sox have Chris Sale working on six days of rest for the last time Wednesday, which could clear Tuesday for Peacock. Ryan Yarbrough (7-4, 4.57 ERA) will start for the Rays.
“We will address it,” Cora said in terms of Tuesday’s starter. “We’ll talk obviously. We’ll see where we’re at. [But] there’s a lot of stuff going on right now.”
The Houston Astros and Washington Nationals have mandated COVID-19 vaccines for all non-uniformed personnel. The Red Sox are not ready to take that step. Team president Sam Kennedy said 98 percent of the team’s full-time employees in Boston are vaccinated. The team also has employees in Florida, the Dominican Republic, and scattered throughout the country in scouting roles. “Currently, we do not have a ‘one size fits all’ policy as it relates to vaccination,” Kennedy said. “We have strongly encouraged all members of our organization to get vaccinated. We will continue to review our protocols and revise them as needed based on guidance and data from medical experts and public health officials — a practice we have maintained since the start of the pandemic” . . . Hunter Renfroe, who was on bereavement leave, returned to the team Monday and will likely be added to the active roster Tuesday.