Orioles outfielder Anthony Santander said Wednesday that the reason for his extended absence to begin the team’s training camp was a positive test for the coronavirus.
Santander and fellow outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. were the only members of Baltimore’s original 44-player pool who did not participate in the open portion of the team’s workouts during the first week of camp. Before Santander said Wednesday that he tested positive for the virus, no one within the organization had provided a reason for his absence.
Santander, who rejoined the Orioles on Tuesday after two weeks in isolation, said that he dealt with “mild symptoms,” which he described as having a fever for a couple of days, before arriving in Baltimore. Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias previously explained that part of the team’s reasoning in not disclosing which or even how many players tested positive for the virus was the possibility of false positives. To return to the field, a player who tests positive must get a negative result on two consecutive tests taken at least 24 hours apart, per league guidelines.
“Now, I’m healthy, I’m not contagious,” Santander said on a Zoom call. “Happy to be back on the field with my teammates.”
Santander said he tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, during the team’s intake testing July 1, the same day he said he has felt healthy since.
Despite previously having symptoms, Santander said he was surprised by the positive result but was thankful his case wasn’t more serious. Santander said he stayed in Florida during baseball’s shutdown instead of returning to his native Venezuela and was unsure how he got the virus.
“It hits closer to home,” infielder Pat Valaika said. “I saw him the very first day of testing. I said hi to him, and next thing you know, he is gone for two weeks. Definitely hits home and makes you think that you’ve got to take all the precautions you can.”
While in isolation, Santander said he did pushups among other workouts to try to stay in shape while his teammates gathered in an empty Oriole Park to prep for the 60-game campaign. Cleared to return to practice with less than two weeks to prepare for the Orioles’ July 24 season opener in Boston, Santander has turned his focus to ramping up quickly.
“I just got to build up little by little,” Santander said. “I will do everything I can to get ready, see live pitches and start playing intrasquad. Try to get ready.”
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On Tuesday, manager Brandon Hyde said he would do what he could to get one of his best players from 2019 ready in that time. After bits of playing time in 2017 and 2018, Santander, 25, was among the Orioles’ top performers in his first three months after joining the team full-time June 7. He slashed .287/.318/.509 with 17 home runs in 80 games before a shoulder injury wore him down and ended his season a few games early.
With Santander and Smith absent, the only true outfielders available in the Orioles’ first few workouts were Austin Hays and DJ Stewart, forcing Hyde to use members of the coaching staff as third outfielders in intrasquad games, though the additions of Ryan Mountcastle, Mason Williams and Cedric Mullins have alleviated that issue. Hyde reiterated Wednesday he “can’t comment” on Smith’s absence.
Hyde said Santander went through “some light outfield stuff” Tuesday, took batting practice against coaches and stood in the batter’s box during bullpen sessions to track pitches.
“Tony looked good yesterday,” Hyde said. “Happy with how he looked and [he] feels good today. We’ll continue to ramp him up.”
Santander, a switch-hitter, took like batting practice against right-hander Alex Cobb and left-hander Rob Zastryzny on Wednesday, wearing a mask while doing so.
Despite being among the players across the game who have experienced the symptomatic effects of a virus that has caused 75,000 infections in Maryland alone, Santander said he believes that a season complicated by virus testing and related restrictions can still succeed.
“We need to [have] precaution all the time with what’s going on,” Santander said. “I think that we need to make every single effort to try to play the game to bring some joy to the fans. Hopefully, everybody’s smart about doing the right thing and just be careful, wearing masks as much time as possible and keep social distancing.”
Around the horn
- Hyde said right-handed relievers Branden Kline and Eric Hanhold have been assigned to the team’s secondary site in Bowie, but he added that all of the players at that camp could still participate in some workouts at Camden Yards before the season begins.
- During Tuesday night’s intrasquad game, the Orioles tested the new extra-innings rule where a runner will start on second base. “I think you saw last night how challenging it is to not let the guy score,” Hyde said.
- The Orioles will use their secondary site “to simulate a season as best as you possibly can,” Hyde said, planning to get position players regular at-bats and keep starters stretched out should they be needed by the major league team.
- The Orioles selected the contracts of left-handers Wade LeBlanc and Tommy Milone, pushing the 40-man roster to 39 players. The 60-man player pool remains at 53.