4 MLB teams shut down training facilities over coronavirus concerns

Five Philadelphia Phillies players and three employees tested positive, the team said. The Phils, Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants also announced they're shutting down facilities.
Image: MLB Still In Limbo Due To The Covid-19 Pandemic
A view of Spectrum Field, spring training home of the Philadelphia Phillies on May 20, 2020 in Clearwater, Fla.Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images file

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By David K. Li

Five Philadelphia Phillies players tested positive for coronavirus as four clubs shut down training facilities on Friday, raising more doubts about professional baseball's 2020 season.

The Phillies cases, which also included positive tests from three team employees, came from the club's spring training headquarters in Clearwater, Florida, which has been shuttered.

The Toronto Blue Jays, who train about five miles north, said Friday that one player had symptoms consistent with the virus. Personnel were undergone testing, the team said.

"As a result, the Blue Jays have suspended operations at their Dunedin facilities for the time being," the Blue Jays said in a statement.

And the San Francisco Giants, who train in Scottsdale, Arizona, closed their facility after someone who'd been there and a family member had coronavirus symptoms, NBC Sports Bay Area reported.

Those two people and others who have recently been at that facility were tested and are waiting for results, according to the regional sports network.

Late Friday the Texas Rangers said it would shut down its training complex nearly 40 miles away in Surprise, Arizona, as a precaution. Next week expanded coronavirus protocols were expected, and the facility might be able to reopen then, the team said through embedded writer T.R. Sullivan.

No players or staff at the facility have tested positive, he said. Players housed there can stay; they just can't play.

Also Friday night the Houston Astros announced that a player who had been working out at its West Palm Beach, Florida, facility had tested positive and is recovering.

"Following the positive test, the Astros informed MLB [Major League Baseball] and implemented all health and safety protocols," the team said in a statement.

It wasn't immediately clear how these developments would impact ongoing labor talks between Major League Baseball and the players union, in hopes of re-starting the season that was halted before Opening Day due to the pandemic.

MLB suspended all preseason games on March 12, and many players have stayed close to their teams' spring training headquarters to work out in hopes of a 2020 restart.

If management and the union can make a deal, it's been reported that games would be played in empty stadiums.

"In terms of the implications of this outbreak on the Phillies’ 2020 season, the club declines comment, believing that it is too early to know," according to the Phillies statement.

The Phillies did not identify the five infected players. Philadelphia has one of the game's most highly paid stars, outfielder Bryce Harper, who is in the midst of a 13-year, $330 million deal.

Eight Phillies employees have tested negative, while another 12 staff members and 20 big league and minor league players "living in the Clearwater area are in the process of being tested and are awaiting the results," according to the team statement.

“The Phillies are committed to the health and welfare of our players, coaches and staff as our highest priority, and as a result of these confirmed tests, all facilities in Clearwater have been closed indefinitely to all players, coaches and staff and will remain closed until medical authorities are confident that the virus is under control and our facilities are disinfected," Phillies Managing Partner John Middleton said in a statement.

The outbreak at Phillies and Blue Jays camps come as Florida struggles to deal with a recent spike in coronavirus cases.

The state reported 3,822 new COVID-19 cases Friday, topping the one-day high set Thursday with 3,207 cases.

Only 22.4 percent of Florida hospital beds, dedicated for intensive care patients, were available for use, according to state data posted at 9:46 p.m. ET Friday.

The state of Arizona has also been struggling with coronavirus, reporting 3,246 new cases on Friday, in the largest one-day spike since the pandemic began.

The NHL, another sport shuttered by the pandemic in March, on Friday announced that at least 11 players have tested positive recently.

At least three of them are with the Tampa Bay Lightning, which shut down its training facility, the team said Friday.

The NHL hopes to restart play later this summer. The league wants all games played in empty arenas in two, still-to-be-determined "hub cities" to limit travel and exposure of players and support staff.

Suzanne Ciechalski and Dennis Romero contributed.