Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said Tuesday that the organization would continue to not disclose any positive tests for players and staff as Major League Baseball’s restart rolls on.
Elias cited the possibility of false positive tests and a desire for players to share their own stories on the COVID-19 testing protocols and results that dictate whether they can take part in the 2020 season or not as reasons for the Orioles’ decision.
“I don’t think there’s any perfect way or really appropriate way to perfectly handle this situation like this,” Elias said. “We don’t like to be cagey or withhold info. But again, this is a private medical matter for these individual people, and I don’t think it’s anyone’s best interest to get out in front of it, mislabel something and have to unwind that later for whatever reason.
“So, recognizing that clarity can take some time in these circumstances, there are other players that maybe they’re coming here and there were circumstances locally from where they’re coming that is slowing their intake or slowing their leaving that area. There’s just a lot going on here right now, and I think eventually things will become clear, but that’s the way that our organization is approaching this.”
The Orioles’ 45-man camp roster, plus coaches and staff who interact with players on a daily basis at camp at Camden Yards, reported for intake testing July 1 to begin workouts two days later.
Two players — outfielders Dwight Smith Jr. and Anthony Santander — have not participated during any of the open portions of the workout. All of the others have been on the field at one point or another or, in the case of some pitchers, thrown side sessions or live batting practice that was described by manager Brandon Hyde as having happened outside those open portions.
The team has been steadfast since camp began not to discuss why players were not participating.
For privacy reasons, players are not required to disclose if they tested positive for COVID-19 under the agreed-upon return-to-play terms set by the league and their union. If a player decides not to disclose their positive test, a team can still announce that it has positive tests in camp without identifying the player. Several teams, including the Miami Marlins and Seattle Mariners, still disclosed that positive tests had occurred.
“I think there’s a lot that you’re going to be able to infer as the season goes on with people coming and going and how long they’re gone, but this is a private health matter,” Elias said, noting that the Orioles could still take that approach of at least acknowledging how many positive tests they have.
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde, the highest-ranking person at the club to speak to the media before Elias did Tuesday, said initially that the rules prevented him from discussing the tests at all. A day later, he said the organization wasn’t going to be speaking about testing and that directive came from above him. On the third day of workouts, Hyde said Elias would address it this week.
Indirectly, Orioles players have acknowledged positive tests in their media sessions. First baseman Chris Davis said he knew there would be positive tests when he spoke Friday. Outfielder Austin Hays referred to how few positive tests the club had registered during his Zoom call Monday.
As teams around baseball — including the Washington Nationals, St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics — all dealt with weekend issues over their testing being properly conducted and results being returned from both intake testing and the every-other-day tests meant to keep players safe beyond that, the Orioles have reported no such issues.
Players and coaches alike have praised the work done by the training staff under head athletic trainer Brian Ebel, plus ballpark operations and other groups, to make the camp at Oriole Park at Camden Yards as safe and smooth as possible.
Players must take a symptom check on an app and check their temperatures every morning before coming to the ballpark, and are tested for COVID-19 every other day upon arrival at the ballpark, Hays said.
Inside, position players and hitters are split up in different clubhouses to promote physical distancing, with masks required indoors and players urged to stay apart in common spaces like the food room, weight room and showers.
“Even after a couple days here, it’s kind of second nature now to follow the protocols,” Hays said.
Players who test positive are required to stay away from the team for 14 days and cannot return until they have no symptoms and register two negative tests at least 24 hours apart from each other. They can be placed on a special COVID-19 injured list, but those won’t be made public, leaving it up to speculation as to who is available and who isn’t.
“I really think there’s going to be a lot you’re going to be able to infer based on roster moves and following the team and the league closely will be able to infer,” Elias said. “That just is what it is. My understanding is Major League Baseball is going to continue to be revealing the statistics of the positive tests and that information will continue to come out.
“I and the organization think everyone involved who has talked about this feels it’s not the best way to handle it to immediately announce if someone has tested positive and the degree to which they’re symptomatic or whether they’re symptomatic and two days later, it turns out it was a negative test. We’re just going to take it a little more cautiously and slower than that.”
Draft pick signings
Third-round draft pick Anthony Servideo and fourth-round pick Coby Mayo signed with the Orioles, according to a source, leaving just fifth-round pick Carter Baumler unsigned.
Servideo signed for $950,000 and Mayo signed for $1.75 million.
MLB.com first reported the agreements.
Around the horn
Shortstop José Iglesias didn’t work out Tuesday because he was getting treatment for a sore back, Hyde said. ... Elias said the Orioles will continue to slowly fill out their 60-man roster, with additions that could include some players joining the major league team at Camden Yards for simulated games and others waiting for the secondary site to be opened. ... Left-hander Tommy Milone and right-hander Thomas Eshelman will start Wednesday’s intrasquad games, which Hyde said will feature two full teams and go 7.5 innings.