MILWAUKEE — With another confirmed positive test Saturday for a player, additional inconclusive tests pending, and an increasing understanding of the virus’ spread through their roster, the Cardinals did more than separate and isolate for an entire weekend in Milwaukee.
They removed themselves from baseball’s schedule.
The entirety of their series against the Brewers, including Sunday’s doubleheader, was officially postponed Saturday, and the Cardinals are taking a pause from games to put distance between them and the positive tests, reassess, and rewrite their schedule for the next week. The team intends to travel to Detroit on Monday and play a four-game series against the Tigers, all at Comerica Park, instead of split between Motown and St. Louis. A sense of “anxiety” persists within the team, but the altered schedule and more rounds of tests give them direction.
“I think the No. 1 priority is the safety of the players and the personnel on the club, and to that extent we have been taking every step necessary,” chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said. “This is a new experience for us all, and we are learning what to do, what protocols to follow to mitigate the risk. Given the current situation, I think we can provide the necessary precaution and by taking a moment, stepping back, and then we can be confident we’ll be able to continue play.”
As of Saturday evening and their latest round of test results, the Cardinals have four members of the 58-person traveling party who are confirmed positive for COVID-19: three players and one staff member. That includes the two players who learned of their positive tests Thursday and were sent back to their St. Louis-area homes, via car, to separate them from the team. Another player and three members of the traveling staff have inconclusive tests that required another round of exams Saturday. The team expects to have those results by Sunday.
All of the individuals are asymptomatic, an official confirmed.
The Cardinals will continue to isolate at their downtown Milwaukee hotel throughout Sunday before traveling Monday to Detroit. Their schedule, further tests permitting, has them working out Monday at Comerica Park.
The flight will be the first time the team is together since late Wednesday.
“We feel like we have a fairly good idea on isolation and understand and where this has really evolved to,” said John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations. “We’re very optimistic we can get back on the field. We feel confident by the time we get to Detroit on Monday that we will have control of this. From the league standpoint, from the Cardinals’ standpoint, we feel comfortable moving forward.”
The Cardinals and Brewers will attempt to make up the series at a later date as they have two more series scheduled. Although no games were played in the planned home-opener for the Brewers, they had a significant loss: outfielder Lorenzo Cain. Their Gold Glove center fielder and All-Star presence notified the team Saturday that he would opt-out of the season, saying in a statement that because “all of the uncertainty and unknowns surrounding our game at this time, I feel that this is the best decision for me, my wife, and our three kids.”
The Cardinals have not had any of the players quarantined with the club approach management about opting out and heading home, Mozeliak said.
The Tigers and Cardinals were originally scheduled to play a home-and-home series this week with Monday and Tuesday at Comerica followed by two games at Busch Stadium. The series was rolled into one four-game event at Detroit that will include a doubleheader — two seven-inning games — on Wednesday. The Cardinals wanted to limit their time in an airplane over the next 48 hours.
“The thinking was that we’re flying there and it just doesn’t make sense to fly back and be on a plane again,” Mozeliak said. “We’re trying to minimize the togetherness in these tight quarters as best we can. And also accommodate Detroit to some level. They’re being inconvenienced. It’s really sort of a thank you to them for being willing to take us and not force us to play a doubleheader on the first day back.”
The Cardinals will determine necessary roster moves by Monday and have players from their alternate-site camp meet the team in Detroit.
The player and staff member with confirmed positives the team learned of Saturday were already separated from the team and will return to St. Louis. After the two positive tests for players on Thursday, the Cardinals isolated a third player because contact tracing suggested a high probability of infection. That was confirmed with both a rapid test and the saliva test reviewed by MLB’s lab. Exercising their medical right to privacy, the three players and staff member have chosen not to be identified by the team.
In the first week of baseball’s regular season, there were 11,895 samples tested, and 29 of them came back positive. Of that group 21 were Miami Marlins. The only three major-league players with positive tests who aren’t Marlins are Cardinals.
“I think the great majority of teams has gotten through it so far without a problem,” DeWitt said. “With what is happening around the country, we knew there was a possibility for exposure. The key is to do all of the safety protocols, take all of the measures, and to remain aware. If we do all we should, I think we can remain optimistic about playing out the season.”
The Cardinals’ traveling party continued to undergo testing Saturday, and by the time they leave for Detroit the players with negative COVID-19 tests will have had multiple ones since tests taken Wednesday in Minnesota. That information shapes the Cardinals’ view of their roster integrity and also the scope of the outbreak before regathering to play.
Instead of playing three games against the rival Brewers this weekend, the Cardinals saw Milwaukee from behind a window. On social media, lefty Austin Gomber shared a photo from his room of a downtown street and empty parking lot, wistfully wondering “what it feels like out there.” Jack Flaherty, who was scheduled to start Friday and will now likely start Tuesday in Detroit, invited followers to give him suggestions on what shows to watch.
Many players shared the concerns about the health and well-being of teammates and staff members, and some expressed worries about the unknown long-term effects of the virus.
They have another day to themselves Sunday.
“I’ll hopeful that this is something we can manage through,” Mozeliak said. “I always believe that sports, baseball specifically, has been something that fans and people in general were hoping to get back on the field. To not keep trying, I just don’t think that’s what everybody’s intentions are. Did we think there would be some speed bumps along the way? Of course. And just getting camps going was difficult. These things can happen, and whether it’s a normal job or a baseball job, there is always some risk when you’re working under the umbrella of a pandemic.”