The Red Sox’ battle with COVID-19 is far from over.
Before Thursday afternoon’s 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays, vaccinated and boosted manager Alex Cora tested positive for the virus.
Cora, who the team said was experiencing mild symptoms, will miss the weekend series against the Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla. His return date is unclear.
Per MLB protocols, a 10-day absence is the baseline after testing positive. An earlier return is possible if two conditions are met: two negative PCR tests and clearance from a committee composed of league officials, players’ union officials, and medical experts.
Catcher Christian Vázquez, who tested positive earlier this week, missed just one game, going on the COVID-19 injury list on Tuesday, and coming off it on Wednesday.
CDC guidance calls for five days of quarantine after a positive test. Two other Red Sox players, Kevin Plawecki and Jonathan Araúz are on the list, with Plawecki missing four games and Araúz three so far.
Besides a series that begins Friday night without Cora, who will be replaced by bench coach Will Venable, the Sox face a stiff challenge on this trip.
A four-game visit to Toronto begins Monday, when the identity or identities of the club’s unvaccinated players will be revealed. Tanner Houck, Thursday afternoon’s starting pitcher, is the only active Sox player known to be unvaccinated. Canada bars unvaccinated visitors.
The Red Sox will fly to Toronto but take a bus to Buffalo after the series ends next Thursday.
Like other teams have done after playing in Toronto, the Sox will take a bus over the border into New York state because a negative COVID-19 test is not required for entry back into the United States. The prospect of leaving players behind in Canada for an undetermined time is unpalatable for teams, which are taking advantage of the protocol loophole.
Cora tested twice in the hours before Thursday’s game, which started at 1:35 p.m.. At 11 a.m., a maskless Cora addressed the media, most of whom were unmasked, in the interview room above the clubhouse. He said at the time he would not be talking about any possible unvaccinated players on the roster.
He also deflected concern that unvaccinated players would affect the team’s chances of winning.
”No, we just have to make adjustments, that’s it,” said Cora. “From my personal perspective, you have to respect their decision and we have to adjust. That’s the bottom line. Obviously, it’s not perfect, but it’s where we’re at. Going into Toronto, this is what it’s going to be now and this is what it’s going to be the rest of the season.
”I love [Blue Jays manager] Charlie [Montoyo’s] quote. Nobody cared about them playing in Buffalo and Dunedin [Fla.], and right now nobody cares who’s going or who’s not. You just have to show up and make your adjustments and go from there.”
Word of Cora’s positive test was sent out early in Thursday’s game.
“He’s got mild symptoms, he tested twice this morning and that’s as far as I know,” said Venable after the loss. “Just 10 or 11 o’clock I know he wasn’t feeling well. He took a test, then he took another test, and before the game I was alerted that I’d be managing. That’s the timeline.”
After his start, Houck declined to address his choice not to get vaccinated and how it might affect the team.
”Right now it’s a personal choice and I’m not going to comment on it anymore,” said Houck. “I’ve tried to stay away from it. No matter what side of the fence you’re on, there are always going to be positives and negatives. But I’ve got a job to do and focus on what I’ve got to do.”
Kiké Hernández got the day off, meaning Trevor Story moved into the leadoff spot for the first time this season.
Story, who escaped injury Wednesday night when he got beaned on the left ear flap, may see more time hitting leadoff, or at least higher in the order, after hitting primarily sixth so far.
”He’s leading off today and we’ll see what we do tomorrow, but you can’t get ahead just because he’s leading off,” Cora said before the game. “He’s very athletic, brings the base running part to the equation, and one thing we haven’t done is put pressure on the opposition, I think we only have one steal attempt.
”Just to be a little more dynamic. If we have to readjust, we will.”
Story struck out twice and grounded out before leading off the ninth inning with a single that sparked the Sox’ two-run rally.
Hernandez has gotten off to a slow start (.157), although seven of his eight hits have gone for extra bases. He has six doubles.
In his Rockies career, Story usually hit second, splitting the rest of his appearances between the fourth and fifth spots in the order.
The Double A Portland Sea Dogs got into a brawl Thursday with the Binghamton Rumble Ponies (affiliate of the Mets) after Binghamton starter Marcel Rentería hit Portland DH Tyreque Reed with a pitch. Rentería appeared to have words for Reed as he went to first, resulting in Reed approaching the pitcher and then dropping him with a right as the benches emptied. Reed and Binghamton third baseman Brett Baty were ejected … Worcester Red Sox lefthander Darwinzon Hernandez allowed five runs in just 1⅔ innings, walking four and allowing a homer, in Thursday night’s game at Syracuse .
Day of rest
J.D. Martinez, who left Wednesday night’s game with left adductor tightness, is day to day. The earliest he is expected back is Saturday. Rafael Devers served as the DH Thursday, going 0 for 3 with a walk in the ninth, when he scored the Sox’ second. Devers and shortstop Xander Bogaerts will likely see at least one day off in St. Petersburg or Toronto given the artificial turf.
Alex Speier of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
Michael Silverman can be reached at email@example.com.