Red Sox closer Matt Barnes tests negative for COVID-19, could be activated for Wednesday’s game against Tigers

After a scare earlier in the afternoon, Red Sox closer Matt Barnes tested negative for COVID-19 Tuesday night, manager Alex Cora announced.

Barnes, who was placed on the COVID-19 related injured list prior to Tuesday’s series opener against the Tigers in Detroit, had been feeling under the weather earlier in the day and — along with one other unnamed player — was also exhibiting symptoms that run consistent with the virus.

As a result, the right-handed reliever, who is vaccinated, was forced to quarantine at the team hotel, but he could now be activated off the COVID IL as soon as Wednesday depending on how he is feeling in the morning.

“He tested negative,” Cora said of Barnes following Boston’s 4-2 loss to Detroit. “We’ll check him throughout the night, how he feels and all that. But he did test negative, so hopefully everything goes well tonight and he’ll be with us tomorrow.”

Cora acknowledged that Barnes will likely have to take one more PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test on Wednesday morning before being cleared to return to action.

“That’s the goal. Everything went well today,” Cora said on the possibility of having Barnes available for Wednesday’s contest against the Tigers at Comerica Park. “We’ll see how feels tonight, how he feels in the morning. Probably one more test or something like that. But as of now, that’s the goal.”

Barnes, who is currently in the midst of a career year that netted him his first-ever All-Star selection and a lucrative contract extension last month, had not appeared in a game for the Red Sox since Game 2 of last Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Blue Jays at Fenway Park before being placed on the COVID IL on Tuesday.

This is not the first time Barnes has dealt with COVID-related issues either, as the 31-year-old tested positive for the virus back in March but was cleared to return to the team after missing just two days because of subsequent test results.

When Boston placed Barnes on the COVID IL on Tuesday, they reinstated utility man Marwin Gonzalez from the 10-day injured list as a corresponding move, thus giving them 13 pitchers and 13 position players on their 26-man major-league roster.

Assuming Barnes is activated ahead of Wednesday’s matchup against the Tigers, it seems likely that infielder Jonathan Arauz would be optioned to Triple-A Worcester in order for the Red Sox to go back to carrying 14 pitchers and 12 position players. We will have to wait and see on that.

(Picture of Matt Barnes: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Friday’s Red Sox-Yankees game is on; Thursday’s postponed contest to be made up as part of split doubleheader on August 17

After Thursday’s game was postponed due to multiple COVID-19 tests, the Red Sox will be playing the Yankees as scheduled at Yankee Stadium on Friday night.

Thursday’s contest was postponed approximately 2 1/2 hours before first pitch on account of the fact that the Yankees had at least three players — pitchers Jonathan Loaisiga, Nestor Cortes, and Wandy Peralta — test positive for COVID-19, while three additional players (Aaron Judge, Gio Urshela, and Kyle Higashioka) were going through COVID protocols.

While additional testing and contact tracing had to be conducted following Thursday’s postponement, it now appears that both clubs have been given the go-ahead to continue their series from Major League Baseball.

As for when Thursday’s game will be made up, that will happen in the form of a split doubleheader between the Sox and Yankees in the Bronx on August 17.

The two teams were originally slated to play a two-game series against one another at Yankee Stadium from August 17-18, but that has now essentially turned into a three-game set.

“After conducting testing and contact tracing involving members of the New York Yankees’ organization, the Club’s home game vs. the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium will proceed as scheduled,” MLB announced in a statement Friday afternoon. “The postponement of Thursday’s game will be made up as part of a split doubleheader at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, August 17. The first game will be played at 1:05 p.m. (ET), followed by the previously scheduled 7:05 p.m. (ET) game.

According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, weekend weather played a factor in the decision to not make up Thursday’s game right away, as the National Weather Service forecasts that there is a 60% chance of precipitation in the Bronx-area on Saturday and a 70% chance of precipitation on Sunday.

With Friday’s series-opening contest scheduled to begin at 7:05 p.m. eastern time, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will be making his 18th start of the season for the Red Sox.

The Yankees, meanwhile, will turn to fellow southpaw Jordan Montgomery to do start things off for them.

Friday’s game will be broadcast on both NESN and MLB Network for those watching out of market. First pitch, again, is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. eastern time.

(Picture of Yankee Stadium: Adam Hunger/Getty Images)

Thursday’s Red Sox-Yankees game postponed because New York has multiple positive COVID-19 tests

Thursday night’s game between the Red Sox and Yankees at Yankee Stadium has been postponed, Major League Baseball announced earlier Thursday evening.

Per an official statement from the league, the reasoning behind the postponement has to do with positive COVID-19 tests from within the Yankees organization. By postponing Thursday’s game, MLB can now conduct further testing as well as contract tracing to ensure the situation does not worsen.

According to MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch, the Yankees cancelled their pre-game batting practice session shortly after 4 p.m. eastern time “out of an abundance of caution as they advance through COVID-19 protocols.”

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that Thursday’s contest between Boston and New York would be postponed at approximately 4:32 p.m., and the announcement from MLB was released shortly thereafter.

The Red Sox (55-36) and Yankees (46-43) were slated to open up a four-game weekend series in the Bronx on Thursday night, but those plans have since been halted.

As stated by MLB, a makeup date for Thursday’s postponed game has yet to be announced and scheduling updates will be provided as available. Friday’s game is, at the moment, still on schedule for a 7:05 p.m. first pitch time.

On that note, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told reporters (including Hoch) that the decision to postpone Thursday’s game came from the Commissioner’s Office and that “it is too soon to know what this means for the rest of the weekend.”

Cashman also said that Jonathan Loaisiga, Nestor Cortes, and Wandy Peralta are three of the confirmed COVID-19 cases within the Yankees’ ranks, while there are three more who have “pending cases,” according to The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler.

(Picture of Yankee Stadium: Al Bello/Getty Images)

Red Sox activate Garrett Whitlock from COVID-19 related injured list, option Colten Brewer to Triple-A Worcester

Before wrapping up their three-game series against the Angels on Sunday, the Red Sox activated right-hander Nick Pivetta from the COVID-19 related injured list.

In a corresponding move, right-handed reliever Colten Brewer was optioned to Triple-A Worcester, the team announced earlier Sunday.

Whitlock was originally placed on the COVID IL on Saturday due to side effects from vaccination. He wound up only missing one game on account of feeling under the weather after receiving the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Through 10 appearances out of the Boston bullpen this season, the 24-year-old rookie has posted a 1.77 ERA, a 2.92 FIP, and a 21:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 20 1/3 innings pitched.

Per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, “Whitlock will be available out of the bullpen in Sunday’s series finale but is unlikely to pitch after throwing three innings Thursday night against Oakland.”

Brewer, meanwhile, was not used in the brief amount of time he was up with the Red Sox this weekend after beginning the year in the WooSox’ bullpen.

The 28-year-old hurler has compiled a 4.59 ERA, a 5.14 FIP, and a 77:48 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 69 total appearances (four starts) and 80 1/3 innings pitched in parts of two seasons with Boston since coming over from the Padres in a November 2018 trade.

(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox place Nick Pivetta on COVID-19 related injured list (side effects from vaccination), recall Eduard Bazardo from Triple-A Worcester

Before taking on the Athletics on Wednesday night, the Red Sox placed right-hander Nick Pivetta on the COVID-19 related injured list.

In a corresponding move, fellow right-hander Eduard Bazardo was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket, the team announced Wednesday.

The reason Pivetta was placed on the COVID-19 related injured list was because of side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine.

The 28-year-old can be activated at any time since the COVID IL does not require a minimum stint. He is slated to get the start for the Sox against the Angels on Friday, but it is not clear at the moment if he will be ready to return the mound for his start.

Through seven outings this season, Pivetta has been solid, posting a 3.19 ERA, a 3.78 FIP, and 35:22 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 36 2/3 innings pitched.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, right-hander Matt Andriese could be a candidate to get a spot start for Boston if Pivetta has not yet been activated by Friday night.

In Pivetta’s place, the Red Sox have called up Bazardo from Worcester.

Bazardo, 25, is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 27 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

The Venezuelan hurler made his major-league debut for the Sox last month, working a scoreless seventh inning of relief while serving as the 27th man in a doubleheader against the Twins back on April 14.

In Bazardo, who has allowed four runs in his first 1 2/3 innings pitched with the WooSox this season, the Red Sox gain some bullpen flexibility while Pivetta is out.

(Picture of Nick Pivetta: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ J.D. Martinez in MLB’s COVID-19 protocol due to cold symptoms

J.D. Martinez will not play in Saturday’s game against the Orioles. The slugger is under the weather and is dealing with cold symptoms, which resulted in him being placed in MLB’s COVID-19 protocols.

The Red Sox, however, do not feel that Martinez has COVID.

“With J.D., he’s under the weather,” Sox manager Alex Cora said during his pregame media availability Saturday. “He has cold symptoms. So the protocol has been activated. We’ll have more information throughout the night or tomorrow morning. We feel pretty confident that he’ll be able to be with us tomorrow. But obviously, we have to wait.”

Per the league’s health and safety protocols for the 2021 season, Martinez must test negative twice before being cleared to return to baseball activities. The 33-year-old has already taken a rapid COVID test and has taken or will take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

“I spoke to J.D.,” said Cora. “Obviously, we never know with the virus, but he feels pretty confident that it’s just a regular cold.”

There is a chance that the Red Sox could place Martinez on the COVID-related injured list before Saturday’s game and still have him available to play on Sunday.

In that scenario, Boston would activate one of the five taxi squad players who are currently traveling with the team for their first road trip of the season. Chris Herrmann, Michael Chavis, Cesar Puello, Colten Brewer, and Ryan Weber are those five players.

Again, Martinez’s absence would likely only last one day, as the Sox appear confident that the three-time All-Star just has a cold, not COVID-19.

“From our end, we do believe he’s going to be back with us tomorrow,” Cora said.

(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox place Eduardo Rodriguez on injured list; Alex Cora hopeful left-hander will be able to rejoin team ‘sooner rather than later. And sooner is like next week’

To nobody’s surprise, the Red Sox placed left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez on the 10-day injured list on Thursday due to left elbow inflammation.

The soon-to-be 28-year-old hurler was originally slated to start on Opening Day for the Sox in their first game of the year against the Orioles, but was scratched from said start after suffering a “dead arm” in the last week of spring training.

Now that he has been placed on the injured list — which was actually backdated to March 29 — the hope is that Rodriguez will be be able to return to the mound in the very near future.

“Him going on the IL is nothing long-term,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said about Rodriguez earlier Thursday. “It’s just [that] we ran out of time to build him up. The hope is for him to rejoin us sooner rather than later. And sooner is like next week.”

Rodriguez will head to Worcester on Friday to throw a simulated game at the Sox’ alternate training site at Polar Park.

Though Cora was unsure of how many innings or pitches Rodriguez would throw in that simulated game, he did place an emphasis on the Venezuelan southpaw’s health in the midst of this latest setback.

“We’ll build him up and see how it goes,” said the Sox skipper. “Like the whole week, the next day is the most important day. Hopefully he’s OK. The goal is for him is to be with us hopefully next week.”

Because his stint on the injured list was backdated to this past Monday, Rodriguez could be activated from the IL as soon as April 8, which — as noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo — would line him up to get the starting nod against the Orioles in the Red Sox’ road opener in Baltimore.

Rodriguez, who missed all of 2020 due to a heart condition as a result of contracting COVID-19 over the summer, has not pitched on a big-league mound since September 2019. While he is surely anxious to get back out there as soon as possible, he also understands that he needs to be at his best health-wise before returning to action.

“I’m going to go out there when I’m 100%,” Rodriguez said last weekend. “That’s why we sat together and made the decision. I want to go out there and compete and not think, ‘Oh, my shoulder’ and all that and miss my spots.”

The start of the 2021 season, which for the Red Sox was pushed back from Thursday to Friday, will mark the second consecutive year in which Rodriguez was supposed to be Boston’s Opening Day starter but ultimately was not.

A bout with COVID-19 prevented that from happening last summer, and a bout with left elbow inflammation is preventing that from happening this spring.

“It sucks for him because going into ‘20 he was supposed to be the Opening Day starter,” Cora said of the 6-foot-2, 231 pounder back on March 26. “Going into ‘21, we announced it and now he’s not. But I told him yesterday, I said, ‘Hey, man. The way you throw the ball, the way your career is going, at one point in your career you will be an Opening Day starter. Maybe more than once.’ So he took it as a professional. With him, I think the communication is very clear. It’s very genuine. And for him to accept it and think about the future and not the first game of the season, it is a testament to who he is right now as a pitcher, as a person, as a leader in this team.”

(Picture of Eduardo Rodriguez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes cleared to rejoin team after potentially false positive COVID-19 test

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)

Saturday was a long day for Red Sox manager Alex Cora

Editor’s note: This is a bad title and I will try to be better next time.

The week leading up to Opening Day is typically one filled with optimism around baseball.

This year, though, as has been the nature of things since the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic began last March, those days for the Red Sox are now filled with plenty of uncertainties as April 1 draws closer.

Earlier Saturday morning, Red Sox manager Alex Cora revealed that reliever Matt Barnes had tested positive for COVID-19 and right-hander Matt Andriese was one of several players away from the team due to contact tracing protocols.

Barnes, who was vying for the role as Boston’s closer, took a COVID test on Thursday and got his positive result back on Friday shortly after throwing in a simulated game at the Fenway South complex in Fort Myers.

Cora found out about the veteran hurler’s positive test shortly after arriving to JetBlue Park at around 7 a.m. Saturday morning.

While Barnes is not showing any symptoms, he will be away from the team for at least 10 days due to the protocols MLB has in place.

This means that the UCONN product will not be included on the Sox’ Opening Day roster and will miss a minimum of four regular season games before being cleared to return to action.

The fallout of Barnes’ testing positive resulted in a feeling of unease throughout the Red Sox’ clubhouse on Saturday.

“It’s nobody’s fault,” Cora said via Zoom. “That’s the first thing. They’ve been very responsible. We’ve been praising them throughout camp. It just happened. Today, you can feel… you don’t want to hear this. You start thinking about if something else happens or where we’re going to be in a few days. It’s not comfortable but, at the same time, if we keep doing the things we should be doing, the hope is we’re going to be fine as a group.

“It’s just one isolated quote-unquote incident. Let’s hope that’s the case,” he added. “But it’s a different mood, to be honest with you. It’s not a good feeling, but trusting the process, trusting our medical staff, trusting the testing system. We should be OK.”

Despite having a confirmed positive COVID case, Red Sox players and coaches who were slated to travel to Bradenton for the team’s Grapefruit League contest against the Pirates did, but only after taking a rapid COVID-19 test before the bus ride there.

Upon arriving at LECOM Park, not only did the Sox top the Pirates by a final score of 7-4 — which allowed Cora to triumph over his brother Joey, who is Pittsburgh’s third base coach — they also received some encouraging news later in the afternoon.

That being, of all the rapid tests the club’s traveling party took earlier in the day, none came back positive.

“Everybody who was here was negative,” Cora said during his postgame media availability. “We got the results throughout the day. Of course, there were people who stayed back. I’ll get those results, probably, on the way to Fort Myers.”

Taking those words into consideration, Barnes remains the only known player to test positive thus far, though that number could increase as Major League Baseball conducts conduct tracing with those on the Sox who were in close contact with the righty — including Andriese.

“We have a positive, but we did everything we’re supposed to do to keep moving forward,” said Cora. “Everybody was nervous at one point, but when we went through the whole thing, the whole process, you feel better.

“But we’re not out of it,” he continued. “We still have to wait for tonight and tomorrow and the next couple of days. But we got it in, we got our work in. We’ll do the same thing tomorrow. Hopefully we can do it the next three days and go up north.”

Because of the uncertainty surrounding the team at the moment on account of COVID-19, Cora has yet to name a starter for the Red Sox’ next Grapefruit League contest against the Twins at JetBlue Park on Sunday afternoon.

To put it simply, between Christian Vazquez suffering a contusion under his left eye on Thursday, Eduardo Rodriguez being scratched from starting on Opening Day on Friday, and Barnes testing positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, the past three days or so have been a real whirlwind for the Sox skipper. But he understands the problems he is dealing with don’t really compare to other things currently going on throughout the country and the rest of the world.

“This is bigger than sports,” Cora said. “We’ve been living through this since March last year. We’re doing the best possible to put a show out there for the fans and get their minds away from the pandemic. That’s the way I see it.”

(Picture of Alex Cora: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes tests positive for COVID-19

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)