Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes has tested positive for COVID-19, Red Sox manager Alex Cora announced Saturday morning.
Per Cora, Barnes is currently away from the Sox’ Fenway South complex in Fort Myers, as are several other players due to contract tracing protocols.
“As far as the guidelines and the protocols, it’s a fire drill now,” Cora said via Zoom. “So there’s a few people that because of contact tracing, they have to stay away from camp.”
One of those individuals would be right-hander Matt Andriese, who was slated to start for Boston in the club’s Grapefruit League contest against the Pirates Saturday afternoon. He has since been scratched from that start in favor of A.J. Politi.
“We talked about making adjustments yesterday pitching-wise and all that stuff,” said Cora. “Everything happened this morning, so we’re still scrambling as far as what we’re going to do. We know how we’re going to attack this, obviously. There’s some guidelines and the organization is great about stuff like that. It’s unfortunate, but this is the world we’re living in and we have to make adjustments.”
Barnes, 30, is asymptomatic, but protocols dictate that he could be away from the team for up to 10 days before receiving the OK to return to action.
In other words, with Opening Day just five days away now, the veteran right-hander will miss the start of the regular season. He had been competing with fellow righty Adam Ottavino for the team’s closer job.
“He’ll get tested, nonstop, for X amount of days,” Cora said in regards to Barnes’ status moving forward. “The hope is obviously that he’ll test negative and we can go from there. It takes longer than five days.”
Barnes had been pitching well throughout camp and most recently got some work in in a simulated game at the Fenway South complex on Friday, the same day he received a positive result after taking a COVID-19 test on Thursday.
With Barnes testing positive, the Sox are now in a mad dash to determine who else on the team — whether that be players, coaches, or staff members — have been in close contact with the reliever in recent days.
With the help of Major League Baseball, Barnes will be interviewed with the intention of finding out how he may have contracted the virus in the first place.
The league will also use data provided by contact tracing devices each player and coach has been wearing throughout the spring to determine who else on the team was in close contact with Barnes.
“Obviously, they get the information from the trackers but he’ll go over whatever he did from breakfast to dinner, who he spent more time with,” said Cora. “From there, they’ll keep adding people and subtracting people. We just have to be patient throughout the day to get more information about it. Hopefully, instead of adding people to it, we subtract people from our list.”
Barnes is the only player Cora has ruled out for Opening Day thus far. Andriese’s status — as well as the status of others who were in close contact with Barnes — has yet to be determined.
With Barnes being the only Red Sox player to test positive thus far, the team — as noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo — “is hopeful it’s an isolated incident.”
“We signed up for this,” Cora said. “This is the world we’re living in. It’s not only the Boston Red Sox. It’s happening everywhere. It’s a bad moment, right? But we cannot blame Matt. The chances were high something like this was going to happen.”
(Picture of Matt Barnes: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)