Coronavirus outbreak among Marlins players calls MLB season into question after just days

The Miami Marlins suffered an outbreak, forcing the club and the Philadelphia Phillies, the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles out of action Monday.
Image: MLB: Miami Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies
Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia during the fifth inning of a game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Miami Marlins on Friday.Bill Streicher / USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

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By David K. Li

A coronavirus outbreak among players on the Miami Marlins forced the postponement of two baseball games Monday, calling into question the viability of Major League Baseball's season just one weekend into its long-delayed start.

The Marlins' home opener against the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees' game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Philadelphia had both been to scheduled a start a little after 7 p.m. Monday. But by late Monday morning, both contests were listed as "postponed" by MLB.

Tuesday's Orioles-Marlins game in Miami has also be postponed but MLB hopes to have both teams back on schedule Wednesday — which would be Miami starting a two-game set in Baltimore, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said Monday night.

Baseball's chief executive revealed that four Marlins tested positive over the weekend but insisted this outbreak won't derail the 2020 season.

"I don't put this in the nightmare category," he told MLB Network. "We built the protocols to allow us to continue to play. That's why we have the expanded rosters. That's why we have the pool of additional players. And we think we can keep people safe and continue to play."

The commissioner said he would consider a full or partial shutdown of the season if infections accelerated.

"A team of losing a number of players that rendered it completely non-competitive would be an issue that we would have to address," Manfred said. "You get to a certain point leaguewide where it does become a health threat, and we certainly would shut down at that point."

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

Marlins CEO Derek Jeter said that his entire team underwent another round of testing Monday and that cancellation of the Orioles game was the only reasonable option.

"The health of our players and staff has been and will continue to be our primary focus," Jeter said in a statement.

MLB teams generally fly on chartered planes immediately after finishing series, but the Marlins chose to stay in Philadelphia on Sunday after completing their three-game series.

The Marlins who tested positive are in quarantine, according to manager Don Mattingly.

"We were more comfortable flying as a group later," Mattingly told reporters Sunday about his team's decision to remain in Philadelphia. "We're talking about these guys traveling back home to their families and their kids, and it's the reason we want to be safe."

The MLB season had been set to start March 26, with teams ready to play 162 games, before the coronavirus pandemic broke out. A truncated 60-game schedule, played in empty ballparks, just got underway Thursday.

"It's fair to say guys are concerned about things," Mattingly said. "They want how they're feeling about the situation to be heard. I think it's fair. We're talking about health."

A representative of the Major League Baseball Players Association declined to comment Monday.

Popular retired player Michael Morse said he wasn't sure MLB would make it to the finish line.

"Come on people," the Florida native tweeted Monday night, "did you really think this season was going to work?!"

The NBA and the NHL hope to restart action later this week with no fans in the stands.

The NFL is less than two months from its regular season kickoff, but the resumption of play is far from certain.

The Minnesota Vikings said Monday that head trainer Eric Sugarman, pictured attending to a Vikings player in 2013, had tested positive for the coronavirus.Nam Y. Huh / AP file

The Minnesota Vikings disclosed Monday that their head trainer and COVID-19 point man, Eric Sugarman, has tested positive for the coronavirus.

"This weekend my family and I tested positive for COVID-19," Sugarman said in a statement. He holds multiple titles with the team, including head athletic trainer, vice president of sports medicine and infection control officer.

"We immediately quarantined and began to follow the established protocols. At this time we are all doing fine and experiencing only mild symptoms."

Associated Press contributed.