WASHINGTON– Nationals left fielder Juan Soto tested positive for the coronavirus earlier today and will be left off the Opening Day roster according to a tweet from ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
Soto, 21, will miss tonight’s season opener against the Yankees and will be replaced by journeyman Emilio Bonifacio. In lighter news, however, Soto is asymptomatic according to a tweet sent out by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
This isn’t Soto’s first encounter with the novel coronavirus since the sports world shut down in mid-March. Soto reported to summer camp two weeks after camp began across the sport on July 1. Soto spent those first two weeks of camp in mandatory quarantine after coming into contact with someone who had tested positive for the virus.
According to Washington’s general manager Mike Rizzo, Soto was tested two days ago and received the positive result earlier this morning. In order to return to play, Soto will need to test negative twice over a span of more than 24 hours to be cleared.
The Nationals played three exhibition games during the past seven days including two home games against the Philadelphia Phillies and the Baltimore Orioles. Washington traveled to Baltimore on Monday –by bus– to play the O’s before returning home to play the aforementioned exhibition game against the Orioles.
All other tests have come back negative, Rizzo told reporters in an emergency press conference Thursday afternoon.
Under MLB/CDC protocols, the Nationals will be able to continue with tonight’s season opening game as originally scheduled.
Soto isn’t the first MLB player to test positive for COVID-19 since all eligible players returned to camp. Kansas City Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier tested positive for the virus earlier today and remains asymptomatic. Aside from Dozier and Soto testing positive, no other players have received a positive result.
In a season in which every contender needs to get off to a fast start, this is a huge blow –for the new days-to-weeks– for the reigning World Series champions.
Now, the Nationals and others around baseball will hope that the virus didn’t spread any further other than Soto so the 2020 season can be played.