Four Mariners players are out for now, but could there be more missing in the coming days?
On Friday afternoon, roughly seven hours before their game against the Padres at Petco Park in San Diego, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that at least one Mariners player in the team’s traveling party had tested positive for COVID-19.
MLB sources confirmed the report that the Mariners have at least one player who has tested positive for COVID-19 with the possibility of a second player.
At 3 p.m. , when they must submit their starting lineup for a 7 p.m. game, the Mariners confirmed a player with a positive test while announcing a slew of roster moves, including placing four players on the COVID-19 injured list, which has no minimum requirement of days served. The news release led with this:
“Based on a potential positive test, and out of an abundance of caution to allow time to work with Major League Baseball on contact tracing protocols, the Mariners today made the following roster moves:
- Keynan Middleton (#99), RHP, reinstated from 10-day Injured List (strained right biceps)
- Aaron Fletcher (#41), LHP, recalled from Triple-A Tacoma
- Wyatt Mills (#40), RHP, recalled from Triple-A Tacoma
- Yohan Ramírez (#55), RHP, recalled from Triple-A Tacoma
- Eric Campbell (#5), INF, selected from Triple-A Tacoma
- Robert Dugger, RHP, placed on Injured List
- Anthony Misiewicz, LHP, placed on Injured List
- Drew Steckenrider, RHP, placed on Injured List
- Will Vest, RHP, placed on Injured List”
“When we landed here in San Diego, we were notified that we did have a positive COVID test,” manager Scott Servais said before Friday’s game. “We are going to be short a few players today. We’ve added some extra guys to fill in the holes there as we try to work through this. The No. 1 priority, obviously, is the health and safety of our players and everybody understanding the importance of getting vaccinated. But it is an individual choice. Unfortunately, not all of our guys are vaccinated, so it’s something that we have to deal with.”
Per sources, fewer than half the Mariners players on the active roster and injured list opted to get vaccinated when first offered by the team in mid-April. The number has increased with changes to the roster, including call-ups from Triple-A Tacoma, who were all vaccinated. Still, the Mariners aren’t close to reaching 85%, which is the MLB vaccination threshold for lessening some of the most stringent COVID-19 protocols.
An unvaccinated player who tests positive must quarantine for a minimum of 10 days. Players who are not vaccinated and are contact-traced to a player with the positive test must quarantine for at least seven days. The time span also relates to the personal GPS trackers that players must carry with them at all times. It allows for MLB to measure how much time a player spent in close contact. Players who are fully vaccinated and contact-traced will not have to quarantine if they are asymptomatic.
Since vaccines were made available to players, Servais has been vocal about the importance of getting fully vaccinated in terms of community health. But he also knew about the competitive aspects, particularly the benefits of full vaccinated players not being forced into mandatory quarantines.
“It’s concerning,” he said. “COVID is real. People throughout the world have felt it. It has been a big part of what we had to deal with here in Major League Baseball with all the protocols. Take my emotions aside, they really don’t matter. It’s about trying to keep our players healthy and doing the right thing. People need to understand, yes, it’s a personal choice, and I understand that, but it does affect a lot of other people. So even though it is a personal choice, there’s different things you need to look at there.”
The entire traveling party took COVID tests on Friday morning with the results still pending. That means Seattle could lose more players in the coming days.
“We are not out of the woods in this instance,” Servais said.
But the Mariners were fortunate in that multiple players, who were fully vaccinated, didn’t have to go on the COVID injured list despite being contact traced.
“We absolutely could have lost more players,” Servais said. “It’s random on where was this person sitting on the plane. He happened to be sitting around some guys that were vaccinated. As we move forward, they’re available for us tonight and they move on with their season.”
Obviously, the source of the positive test comes from the bullpen. The Mariners cannot specifically list the reason for the stint on the injured list — either positive test or contact trace — when it comes to their situation. Servais also cannot speak to specifics of a player’s situation if it is COVID related.
Dugger, who pitched in relief on Wednesday night, was expected to serve as the starting pitcher for the Mariners’ next bullpen start and pitch in long relief over the next few days if needed. Vest struggled in his last outing but has been one of the Mariners’ best relievers this season. This is the second time that Misiewicz has missed due to a COVID-related issue. He missed four days (April 12-16) on the COVID injured list.
Both Vest and Misiewicz have proven to be valuable set up men in leverage situations, while Steckenrider has pitched well in middle relief and seen his role increase.
A week ago, Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto lamented the fact that the Mariners were nowhere close to reaching the 85% threshold of Tier 1 employees — players, coaches, training staff and support staff — being fully vaccinated for COVID-19, which would reduce the stringent protocols set by MLB, including mandatory quarantine for nonvaccinated players who are contact traced.
It wasn’t a warning or prediction but an exasperated admittance of the inevitable.
He’d watched the Nationals, Astros, Padres and Yankees lose multiple players for long stretches and lose games because of their absence. Meanwhile, the Mariners had just one player — Misiewicz — miss time for a COVID-related absence.
“It seems impossible that we’ve been able to avoid it for this long,” he said last week.
Per an agreement with Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association, teams can’t force players to get COVID-19 vaccinations. They also can’t openly discuss which players have opted to get vaccinated.
According to data released from the state of Washington on May 17, 59% of people eligible for vaccination have received their first shot.
In April, the Mariners brought in Dr. Vin Gupta and Dr. Santiago Neme from the University of Washington’s Department of Medicine to host a question-and-answer session for players. The hope was to provide education for the players about the vaccine and erase some of the preconceived notions and fears.
It didn’t have much of an impact as hoped.
“I keep saying ultimately it is a personal decision, but organizationally from ownership to front office to myself, our coaching staff, you just try to help educate players — coach them up so to speak,” Servais said Friday. “They have to believe it’s the right thing for them. I think we have tried to educate our people as best we can, and we’ll continue to try to do that. I’m not going to change. I’ve just tried to put the information in front of them and hope they make good choices.
“I’m disappointed. I really didn’t want to see anything like this happen.”
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