Detroit Tigers react to Miami Marlins COVID-19 outbreak: 'Something that we fear'
Baseball held its breath when the news broke Monday morning that at least 14 members of the Miami Marlins tested positive for the coronavirus. With 11 of the 33 traveling players unable to play, the team had to postpone its home opener.
But the COVID-19 outbreak within Miami's organization didn't shock Tigers infielder Jordy Mercer. The concern has always been high, inevitable even, as baseball became the first of four major sports in the United States to return to play games.
That's why he says it's too early to make a decision on canceling or postponing the 60-game season.
"I think us players knew or maybe had an idea something like this could happen," Mercer said before Monday's game. "It can spread like wildfire. I think you're blind if you're saying this wasn't going to happen.
"MLB's put in a good safety protocol, but it's not just us. It's everybody else — the clubhouse staff, flight attendants, pilots, media, everybody. We're all human. We're all making the sacrifice to play this game that we love, and we're just trying to stay as safe as possible."
Any player who tests positive will not be able to return until two consecutive negative tests. The Tigers ran into an issue with left-hander Daniel Norris, who tested positive June 23 but couldn't produce back-to-back negatives. He missed all of the team's summer camp before getting cleared to return July 20.
While Miami postponed its home opener against the Baltimore Orioles, another Monday night game, between the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies, was also postponed. The Phillies and Marlins played a three-game series to begin baseball's shortened schedule.
"Hopefully, we do the right things," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "If somebody doesn't follow protocol, it's gonna happen. And even if you do, it could possibly happen. Hearing all the stories from down there, it's a little disappointing. But, you know what, everybody's got to do what they have to do."
Gardenhire's team is "trying to do everything right" to avoid a coronavirus outbreak. Outfielder Cameron Maybin, who is in a group text message chat with his teammates, said everyone reminded each other to follow safety protocols.
"It's something that we fear," Maybin said. "In that mass group text, it's just guys reiterating to stay safe, wash your hands, wear your mask, do everything you can to try to stay safe.
"Scary seeing that, but it's almost inevitable. You get one or two guys in that locker room at this point that tests positive, it's going to be hard not to see more positive tests."
Agrazal has forearm strain
For the second time this season, the Tigers have lost a starting pitcher to the injured list.
First, it was right-hander Jordan Zimmermann to the 45-day IL. Now, it's his replacement — right-hander Dario Agrazal. He was scheduled to start Tuesday against the Royals but is now on the 10-day IL with a right forearm strain.
The Tigers recalled right-hander Anthony Castro to join the bullpen.
"Said his elbow was hurting," Gardenhire said. "He believed if he tried to pitch it would really not be good. So, obviously, make a move, get a pitcher here to help us out. Probably be an opener type thing tomorrow."
Because Monday's starter, right-hander Michael Fulmer, isn't expected to pitch more than three innings, the bullpen will be quite active for two consecutive nights.
Left-hander Tyler Alexander, who started eight of 13 games last season, will be available to pitch Tuesday if needed, Gardenhire said. He did not name a starter for Tuesday's contest.
Alexander tossed 1⅔ innings against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday, giving up two hits and one run.
The Tigers planned on going with Victor Reyes in center field and Christin Stewart in left field, before Gardenhire got unexpected information: everyday center fielder JaCoby Jones wanted to play.
Jones made a catch against the wall in Sunday's game and left Great American Ball Park with a sore back, so Gardenhire assumed he'd need to take a day off Monday.
"But then he came in today and said he felt fine," Gardenhire said. "Originally, I was gonna not play him, but he's right-handed and a lefty is out on the mound."
With Jones now starting in center, the Tigers shifted Reyes to left and benched Stewart. In three games, Jones is 3-for-10 with a two-run homer in the ninth inning of Saturday's game to help secure the first win of the season.
Third baseman Jeimer Candelario is out for the second straight game, with veteran Jordy Mercer starting in his place.