The Orioles are returning home from Miami after the Marlins’ COVID-19 outbreak. What’s next?

When Major League Baseball announced its shortened schedule this month, the early-season games between the Miami Marlins and Orioles seemed almost superfluous. The two teams are projected to be among the league’s worst this year.

If they do get on the field this week, the whole sporting world will be watching to see if MLB’s gambit to play through the Marlins’ COVID-19 outbreak will work out. The Orioles will be center-stage alongside them.


With Monday’s game in Miami postponed as the Marlins reportedly dealt with over a dozen positive COVID-19 tests in their clubhouse, the Orioles plan to return to Baltimore on Monday night after a tense and uncertain day at their Miami hotel.

The Orioles’ solid start, which featured a blowout loss followed by two comprehensive wins over the Boston Red Sox, is at the mercy of the league office and the testing protocols established to protect the 30 teams from a pandemic.


It’s not clear whether government officials will allow the Marlins to play at Camden Yards this week. Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young’s office deferred to the state, and the governor’s office and the state health department did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday afternoon. The Maryland Stadium Authority, which owns Oriole Park at Camden Yards, also did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

What happens next will test the league’s tenuous attempt at continuing the season in a pandemic, as well as the Orioles’ meticulous planning for how to socially distance and keep players safe at Camden Yards.

That the Orioles are coming home doesn’t exactly explain what they’re coming home for. The two-game series in Miami was a home-and-home set-up: The Marlins were to come to Camden Yards for the Orioles’ home opener Wednesday and another game Thursday. The Tampa Bay Rays are scheduled to play in Baltimore on Friday.

The Marlins’ players are quarantined and in isolation in Philadelphia, where they reportedly remained after deciding in a group text chat to play Sunday despite receiving several positive test results.

MLB’s plan is to test the Marlins again Monday and Tuesday, but the team’s proximity to Baltimore will make it difficult to resist the urge to send the team’s taxi squad players up from their secondary site in Jupiter, Florida, to replace the infected players and have the Marlins play on as if nothing happened. The MLB Network reported Monday that the Marlins are looking for “extra MLB quality players.”

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said Monday evening in a television interview with MLB Network that the Orioles will host the Marlins on Wednesday “if the testing results are acceptable.”

That would be an aggressive way to go about it, but in line with the league’s initial plan of using extra players to cover teams’ roster losses because of the virus. The Orioles will be forced to address a litany of issues at Camden Yards when the Marlins arrive.

The way the Marlins’ situation quickly worsened this weekend — one positive test Friday, three more Sunday and eight more in follow-up testing reported Monday — shows that even with the league’s every-other-day testing protocols, the virus can still spread through a team quickly.

Bringing the Marlins who have not tested positive to Baltimore wouldn’t eliminate the risk that asymptomatic players could transmit the virus in the interim. The delay in test results means what happened to the Marlins can happen again.

All of this will occur in what’s been a strict environment at Camden Yards, at least for the Orioles when they were the only occupants. Adaptations to the ballpark include players and coaches spread out in multiple spaces, exclusively grab-and-go meals and extended dugout areas so players can socially distance.

Bringing another team into the facility removes some of the social distance and, in the Marlins’ case, puts players on the field with the Orioles who could possibly be carrying and transmitting the virus.

Some of the rules about reusing baseballs and banning spitting and high-fives have been loosely followed; keeping those strict and having infielders wear masks could mitigate some risk.


Throughout the last month, Orioles players and staff have praised the Angelos family, the senior leadership team and the field-level planners including head athletic trainer Brian Ebel for sparing no expense or detail in creating a safe environment for baseball at Camden Yards.

A week into the season, those efforts could be challenged in the most visible and difficult circumstances imaginable.

Baltimore Sun reporter Hallie Miller contributed to this article.

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