(Reuters) - Major League Baseball has postponed all Miami Marlins games through Sunday in a bid to contain a COVID-19 outbreak among its players that could potentially endanger the 2020 season.
Miami, who opened their season last Friday in Philadelphia, have reportedly had 17 confirmed cases - 15 players and two coaches - over the last five days.
The team will now have to make up seven games during the truncated, 60-game schedule after MLB postponed two of its games on Monday and five more on Tuesday.
“Given the current circumstances, MLB believes that it is most prudent to allow the Marlins time to focus on providing care for their players and planning their baseball operations for a resumption early next week,” MLB said in a statement.
The Marlins said their players are having a difficult time enduring this experience and that the team reached out to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred with concern for the health and safety of the team and their opponents.
“We have moved to a daily testing schedule while we isolate and quarantine appropriately, along with enacting additional preventative procedures with our travelling party,” Marlins CEO Derek Jeter said in a statement.
“For the time being, we will remain in Philadelphia and gather information in order to make informed decisions and prepare for our return to action next week.”
MLB also postponed the remainder of the Phillies-Yankees series, scheduled to be played on Tuesday in Philadelphia and Wednesday and Thursday in New York, “out of an abundance of caution.” Their Monday game was previously postponed.
According to MLB, in over 6,400 tests conducted since last Friday there have been no new positive tests of on-field personnel from any of the other 29 clubs.
“The difficult circumstances of one club reinforce the vital need to be diligent with the protocols in all ways, both on and off the field,” said MLB. “The realities of the virus still loom large, and we must operate with that in mind every day.”
According to MLB’s operations manual for the novel coronavirus-delayed season, team members who test positive must have two negative tests taken at least 24 hours apart before they are allowed to return to team facilities.
Anthony Fauci, the leading U.S. expert on infectious diseases, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” programme earlier on Tuesday that it was too soon to halt all MLB action.
“You just have to watch this, this could put it in danger. I don’t believe they need to stop, but we just need to follow this and see what happens with other teams on a day by day basis,” said Fauci, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch in MLB’s season opener last Thursday in Washington.
MLB had planned to open its 162-game regular season in March but postponed it because of the pandemic.
Manfred, who has the power to shut down the regular season if circumstances make it unsafe, told the MLB Network on Monday that the league was prepared to handle outbreaks such as the one with the Marlins.
“Obviously, we don’t want any player to get exposed. It’s not a positive thing, but I don’t see it as a nightmare,” he said.
“We built the protocols to allow us to continue to play, that’s why we have the expanded rosters, that’s why we have the pool of additional players. We think we can keep people safe and continue to play.”
Editing by Jon Boyle/Christian Radnedge/Ken Ferris
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.