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Orioles’ Dwight Smith Jr. reveals COVID-19 diagnosis, shows support for social justice; John Means to skip start

“I felt pretty normal,” Smith said. “I felt like it was a common cold. If anything, I felt sick for like a couple days."

Orioles outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. paid his respects to late civil rights leaders John Lewis and C.T. Vivian to begin a video call with reporters Saturday in which he disclosed that he was one of the 80 major league players who tested positive for COVID-19.

On each of the touchstone topics of 2020 in the United States, Smith amplified popular messages. He said that wearing a mask was key to stopping the spread of COVID-19, and social justice issues, however uncomfortable, should be spoken about to keep attention on them.

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Smith, who along with fellow outfielder Anthony Santander tested positive for COVID-19 at his July 1 intake test at Camden Yards ahead of the team’s summer workouts beginning, said the positive test was “kind of alarming” in that he didn’t have symptoms like loss of taste or smell or an elevated temperature.

“I felt pretty normal,” Smith said. “I felt like it was a common cold. If anything, I felt sick for like a couple days. But other than that, I didn’t feel any symptoms. I felt normal, and everybody around me was healthy.

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“My family was fine, because I was around them. I wore my mask. That was another thing. I always wore a mask. I think that’s a big key to keeping this thing intact, and not spreading it. If everybody wears their mask, I think we’ll be much better off.”

Smith lamented the time missed in camp, but said he didn’t want to put teammates or staff at risk by being around them.

“Me staying in my room was definitely the right thing,” Smith said. “I’ll never second-guess that.”

During his isolation, Smith wasn’t part of the team’s workouts, but his social media feeds were constantly calling attention to stories about racial injustice and police mistreatment of minorities as part of the movement that began in May when George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police.

Speaking of Lewis, the longtime congressman from his native Georgia who has spent his entire life fighting for racial equality, and Vivian, a civil rights leader who also is from Atlanta, Smith said their work “won’t be forgotten.

“What they did for this country and for their families and all that, it was very powerful,” Smith said. “They did a lot of stuff with Dr. Martin Luther King. They all had the same message of continuing positively throughout this world, and that everybody was created equal. I just want to give my condolences out to their families, and to make sure that that message will continue down the road.”

Smith said the last month-plus of demonstrations and advocacy for racial equality after Floyd’s death impacted him “in a huge way and a positive way” as he saw so many people, including athletes, speak out about what’s happening in society.

“The only way to fix things, you have to talk about it,” Smith said. “Just like any other problem you deal with, in-house or outside the house. I think it’s definitely molded me to be stronger and to speak out on these topics. Even though it’s not an easy topic to talk about, it definitely doesn’t just need to be swept under the rug. I felt like it was the right time to start speaking out on things and join a lot of people on that forefront.”

Eshelman to replace Means

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said that left-hander John Means, the team’s Opening Day starter, was being held out of his scheduled start at the Philadelphia Phillies in Sunday’s exhibition game because of arm soreness. Non-roster right-hander Thomas Eshelman will start in his place.

“John Means has got a little bit of dead-arm, a little bit of fatigue,” Hyde said. “We just want to hold him off just to be sure. Obviously, the two-month season is the most important thing so we want to be overly cautious with him.”

It’s too early to say whether Means’ July 24 start against the Boston Red Sox is in jeopardy, Hyde said. The team has been monitoring Means for the last several days, and Hyde noted that Means had a little arm trouble around this time last year that landed him on the injured list briefly.

“Its not exactly the same but something along those lines of his arm just feeling a little bit dead — not quite as fast, not quite as strong,” Hyde said. “That was in the middle part of the year last year, right around this time. He’s just got a little fatigue going, and we care so much about him that I just want to make sure we’re taking care of him and that we’re doing the right thing for him and that he’s with us for two months. He’s such an important part of our rotation.”

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After Eshelman, Hyde said Miguel Castro, Cody Carroll, Cole Sulser and Tanner Scott were scheduled to pitch at the Phillies Sunday.

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