Twins manager Baldelli, players Arraez, Bundy positive for COVID-19

Twins manager Baldelli, players Arraez, Bundy positive for COVID-19

BALTIMORE — When Twins players started trickling into Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Thursday ahead of finishing the four-game series with Baltimore, it was immediately clear that this would not be a normal day at the office.

“We show up, and everybody’s masked all of a sudden,” reliever Tyler Duffey said. “And you’re like, ‘Oh, I guess something’s happening.'”

The Twins had three people test positive for COVID-19: manager Rocco Baldelli, Wednesday’s starting pitcher Dylan Bundy and utility man Luis Arraez. And that sent the Twins into a bit of a tizzy trying to navigate the situation amid different COVID-19 protocols than the past two seasons.

About a year ago, the Twins called off three games during a California road trip after three players and a staff member tested positive. Contact-tracing, testing and mask-wearing were more vigorous in those days. Now masks aren’t required, and if someone requires testing depends on several main factors: asymptomatic vs. symptomatic, vaccinated vs. unvaccinated and close contact vs. not.

The Twins medical staff determined all of that before Thursday’s game, with only Baldelli, Arraez and Bundy coming back positive. But there could be continued testing and possible cases in the coming days, with the Twins set to fly back to Minneapolis after the game.

Baldelli, Arraez and Bundy are all vaccinated and experiencing mild symptoms. Once they are symptom-free for 24 hours, they must test negative twice at least 24 hours apart before they can return to work. If they keep having symptoms, they must isolate for 10 days before being evaluated for a possible return, which a physician and MLB must approve.

The three will stay behind in Baltimore, and the hope is that they will be able to test out of the quarantine within a few days and rejoin the team. If not, there is a possibility they will be medevacked back to Minnesota.

Bench Coach Jayce Tingler, who managed the Padres for most of last season, took charge in the dugout. Bundy had just started Wednesday and Arraez is a floating infield guy, so the team did not need immediate replacements, although Twins General Manager Thad Levine didn’t rule out potential roster moves Friday.

Players tried to spend more time outside on the field before the game instead of inside the clubhouse. And the team encouraged everyone to wear masks and social distance for the time being.

“The toughest challenge on days like this is getting to 7:05 [p.m.], the game. That way we’re outside, we’re spread out, and we’re ready to play,” Tingler said. “… Over the last couple of years, we’ve been through these types of issues, and guys kind of understand. We just kind of separate but still get our work in.”

The Twins were already a bit short-staffed because of several injuries, including first baseman Miguel Sano, who underwent a successful operation Thursday morning in New York to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. But Max Kepler returned to right field after leaving Tuesday’s game early and sitting out Wednesday because of illness. He did not test positive for COVID, though, and instead fell victim to a stomach bug also making its way around the clubhouse.

Several other MLB teams have dealt with positive COVID tests this season, including the team the Twins faced last weekend, Tampa Bay. Four Rays coaches were sidelined by COVID.

Baldelli was on the phone with his coaching staff pregame and also hopped on a Zoom call for the daily hitters’ meeting. Arraez apparently asked for a tee and some bats so he could at least practice his swing a bit on his own.

“We’ll get through it. Hopefully, it’s just a short little period, and then we’ll be back to normal,” Duffey said. “Until it happens again, I’m sure. Everybody’s got kids and families that travel, and it’s just inevitable. We’re definitely not the first and won’t be the last.”

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