After initially testing positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes — as well as the eight people who were in close contact with him — have been cleared to return to action, per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.
The reason being that Barnes “has had several COVID-19 tests come back negative since the initial positive result on Saturday,” according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.
In addition to the negative tests, Barnes has not shown any symptoms, either. With both of these conditions being met, the Joint MLB-MLBPA COVID-19 Committee felt comfortable clearing the 30-year-old right-hander to return to baseball activities.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora confirmed as much following his team’s 4-0 victory over the Braves on Monday afternoon, though he did not get into the specifics on how Barnes was cleared so soon after receiving a positive test.
“He got cleared by the committee,” Cora said via Zoom. “I don’t know about the details. I’m just happy he’s going to be back with us and we’re going to be at full strength in a few days.”
Barnes testing positive for COVID-19 this past Friday led to eight other members of the organization — including pitchers Matt Andriese, Kevin McCarthy, Garrett Richards and Garrett Whitlock — being sent home as well due to contact tracing protocols.
Now that Barnes, who is the only one on the Red Sox to have tested positive thus far, has been cleared to return, so have the others, leaving Cora to feel more at ease with things compared to just a few days ago.
“Having the whole crew together is beneficial, obviously,” he said. “It was very fast the first day (Saturday), in the early part. It seems like it slowed down right away when we got on that bus to go to Bradenton. The guys did a good job staying the course and doing their work. There were no distractions and then we got good news.”
Barnes will finish the Grapefruit League campaign having allowed no runs on two hits and three walks over five relief appearances spanning 5 1/3 total innings of work.
The UCONN product had been competing with fellow righty reliever Adam Ottavino for the Sox’ closer job, while Richards slotted to pitch in this weekend’s opening series against the Orioles and Andriese and Whitlock were to begin the season in the bullpen.
Because of the time they spent away from the team while quarantining, though, it’s unclear if the likes of Barnes, Richards, Andriese, and Whitlock will be ready for Opening Day on Thursday.
“It’s too soon to make a decision, it’s too soon to know where they’re at,” said Cora. “I’m just happy they’re going to be with us. That’s the most important thing.”
Long story short, it looks like Barnes’ COVID-19 test from over the weekend was a false positive.
UPDATE: For clarity’s sake, I’m including this from The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham, who tweeted earlier Monday afternoon that “is not regarded as a false positive but was deemed non-infectious.”
(Picture of Matt Barnes: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)