ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Yankees now have seven confirmed cases of COVID among their coaches and support staff, and shortstop Gleyber Torres was being held out of the lineup Wednesday night as an “abundance of caution” as the team waited for the MLB and MLBPA joint committee to review the results of his COVID-19 testing.
The Yankees were still waiting after their 1-0 win over the Rays Wednesday night.
“Essentially, the joint committee is waiting on ― because we’ve had so many tests done — some test results to still come back,” manager Aaron Boone said. “So just with all that’s going on with our team out of an abundance of caution, we’re holding (Torres) out tonight.”
Of the seven members of the traveling party with confirmed COVID-19 cases, Boone said six were without symptoms. All seven cases are “breakthrough” cases, meaning they were fully vaccinated, which the CDC has said is possible but considered rare. A team spokesperson said he believed they all received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Still, MLB and the Yankees were comfortable going forward with Wednesday night’s game against the Rays at Tropicana Field. MLB had postponed 45 games last season and seven this season because of outbreaks.
Sources with the league said its contract tracing could not identify a player who was a close contact and would need to miss games. The league also feels because the Yankees have such a high rate of vaccination it helps contain the spread and the effects on those who test positive.
While there was no team meeting to discuss playing like there was before Tuesday night’s game, Jameson Taillon said that players were taking it seriously. Before the game, some players were on the field working out with masks on, and they are paying more attention to social distancing, which had eased a bit when they reached the 85% mark, something encouraged by the MLB MLBPA joint committee.
“I think some guys today were, I don’t know if concern is the right word, but everyone was talking about it, just trying to figure out what exactly was going on and who the positives were and stuff,” Taillon said. “I warmed up by myself out in left field and instead of going in the weight room, trying to avoid confined spaces. I’m past my two week threshold of being vaccinated. So at the same time, I’ll wear my mask and do what I’m supposed to do, but I’m not too panicked about it right now.”
Since Tuesday morning, all members of the traveling party have been tested at least three times using all the current methods of testing, a team spokesperson said.
The Yankees have said that their rate of vaccination — they were one of the first teams in baseball to reach the 85% vaccinated mark — is giving them some sense of comfort.
“Our guys have been over the 85% threshold of the vaccination. I think that has eased everyone’s mind a little bit,” Taillon said. “We’ve been dealing with this thing now for over a year with COVID. And we’re just willing to roll with the punches and try to protect each other and do our responsibility to keep everyone safe. But we’re here and we’re ready to play.”
Torres is among those who was vaccinated, and Boone revealed for the first time that the shortstop had COVID-19 in December and has the antibodies. Boone, however, could not comment on what exactly raised the concern with Torres.
“We do expect that final ruling or whatever, potentially by tonight,” Boone said.
Pitching coach Matt Blake was the third coach with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and Boone said he was asymptomatic. Phil Nevin and Reggie Willites were confirmed as the two other coaches by the end of Tuesday night’s game.
Blake was noticeably absent Tuesday night, with bullpen coach Mike Harkey filling in as pitching coach while still working with the relievers. Taillon said Blake has been working remotely with pitchers.
“He’s been FaceTiming a little bit. I’ve been texting with him about (Thursday) for my start, but for the most part, like not to say we don’t need him, we obviously do. He’s great to have around and he’s great at his job. But we have a lot of guys that kind of coach each other‚” Taillon said. “Like tomorrow, I’m sure Gerrit (Cole) will be right there with me every step of the way. We’ve got Harkey, we got (director of pitching) Sam Briend here today and our pitching staff talks amongst each other.”