A week after they were meant to travel back to Miami to face the Orioles last week but never did due to a COVID-19 outbreak that reached over half of their clubhouse, the Miami Marlins boarded buses Sunday evening to bring them to Baltimore for their return to baseball Tuesday at Camden Yards.
Their reemergence onto the baseball schedule after Major League Baseball paused their season to allow them to get hold of the outbreak will solidify what the league’s response to the virus made clear: Their plan, however they can, is to play ball.
“Hopefully, this has been a wake-up call for everyone,” Marlins chief executive officer Derek Jeter said Monday.
The two teams will play four games over three days beginning Tuesday at Camden Yards, with a scheduled doubleheader beginning at 5:05 p.m. Wednesday, provided the remnants of Hurricane Isaias doesn’t alter those plans.
The doubleheader will feature two seven-inning games as Major League Baseball looks to limit stress on teams in the shortened season. The second game will start approximately 30 minutes after the first ends.
The Orioles will be the home team for the first two games of the series, and then the visitors for the next two. The Tuesday and Thursday games will start at 7:35 p.m., and all will be broadcast by MASN.
The four-game series was originally scheduled from July 27-28 in Miami and July 29-30 in Baltimore.
In all, 18 Marlins players tested positive. They, along with staff members who tested positive, were bused back to Miami last week to quarantine there. The players who did not test positive had been quarantined in Philadelphia as well, and will be joined by players from the Marlins’ secondary camp and recent acquisitions, including former Orioles relief pitcher Richard Bleier on Tuesday in Baltimore.
Those players who came from Philadelphia have been tested daily, and the team has registered no positive tests for the past three days. However, since their most recent interactions with teammates who tested positive was over a week ago, the league has determined they’re safe to continue playing. That said, their return to play comes before the recommended 14-day quarantine for those with potential exposure to the virus are to take, per CDC guidelines.
Dr. David Thomas, chief of infectious diseases at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said safe is relative and there are degrees of risk akin to driving on the Jones Falls Expressway in Baltimore: “It’s never safe, but the risk varies and sometimes is justifiable.
“Testing doesn’t eliminate risk and make COVID-19 life ‘safe,’” Thomas said. “Specifically, a test cannot exclude the possibility one will acquire [or even has acquired] infection from an exposure. That’s why there is a 14-day quarantine rule. What a test can do is answer how high the risk is that a person is infectious to others, and that information is most useful the closer the test is to period of time when you want to know if the person is infectious.”
Dr. Zachary Binney, an epidemiologist at Oxford College of Emory University, said last week that MLB was inadvertently running an experiment by allowing the Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies to play July 26 despite evidence of a Marlins outbreak.
Over a week after exposure, no Phillies players tested positive for COVID-19, the league and team said. They had three staff members test positive, but the league suspects two were false positives and doesn’t believe the third was related to the Marlins’ outbreak based on timing.
Similarly, the Cardinals haven’t played since Wednesday at the Minnesota Twins. There has been no reported spread between those teams, either.
That doesn’t change the fact that the Marlins aren’t fully outside the CDC-recommended quarantine period for those who are exposed to the virus. They get tested every day, but hospitality workers do not.
Staff director Tracy Lingo of Unite Here Local 7, the union that represents Maryland’s food service and hospitality workers, said many of the city’s hotels laid off staff at the beginning of the pandemic and are now cutting housekeeping despite marketing efforts to tout safety and cleanliness.
Those who do work at the businesses like hotels know it’s possible they’re coming in contact with the virus under normal circumstances, she said.
“People haven’t specifically asked about people having positive tests, but I think our members assume that if they’re working, some of the guests are going to be positive,” Lingo said.
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde was able to laugh about the week’s uncertainty after Sunday’s win gave the Orioles a rare series sweep against the Tampa Bay Rays, as they left the ballpark not knowing what time they’d play next.
The uncertainty is nothing new for the Hyde, who joked that he spent his days putting out fires until games began each day.
“How do I deal with it? I take it as it comes,” Hyde said. “Every day is a little bit different. I think we’re just continuing to remind our guys of what’s important here and what we can control. What we can control is doing the best job we can to follow the protocols. … Those kind of reminders, doing our part, and you follow what’s going on around the league you follow what’s going on with our country right now. You try to educate yourself and others and you stay aware. We’re just trying to do our part to make this a successful season. I think we’ve done that for the most part so far.”
Reliever Shawn Armstrong said that just in the past week, as news of the Marlins outbreak was taking hold and a similar one was taking over the Cardinals’ traveling party, the Orioles have ramped up their protocols. The team has noticeably gotten better at not high-fiving or contacting one another on the field and in the dugout.
Armstrong said relief pitchers in the bullpen are now wearing masks the whole time as well “to eliminate that possibility, if someone were to get it here, to eliminate the spread.”
Hyde noted that the dugout is largely empty save for players in the game and coaches. Starting pitchers who aren’t involved, plus bench players, socially distance in an overflow area in the stands or in the clubhouse. Masks are still required in indoor spaces, with all meals in to-go containers to discourage gathering and eating.
Tuesday, 7:35 p.m.
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