This year's baseball season may not be decided by talent or injury-avoidance, but which team most successfully stays coronavirus-free.
The Red Sox have two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in their bullpen in left-handers Josh Taylor and Darwinzon Hernandez, and they're still awaiting word on left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who remains at home.
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Taylor tested positive when players arrived last week, while Hernandez was diagnosed in Miami, where he remains. Both players must quarantine for 14 days and Hernandez can't fly back to Boston until he tests negative twice, putting their status for Opening Day in jeopardy.
"Anytime anybody is positive now, it impacts what happens at the start of the season just because of the short training camp we have," manager Ron Roenicke said. "We'll see how it goes. Some guys are in their rooms and will throw balls up against a mattress or trying to do anything to keep their arm activated, so we'll see what we can do."
Taylor and Hernandez are considered two of the most important members of the bullpen. The hard throwers broke out as rookies, with Taylor striking out 62 in 47.1 innings and Hernandez whiffing an Aroldis Chapman-esque 16.9 per nine innings.
Their absence, even for a week or two in a 60-game schedule, could make a considerable impact, but teams should get used to such complications, because they're going to be a fact of life in a pandemic-shortened season.
"I want to say I'm confident," DH J.D. Martinez said when asked about the season being played to completion. "But the way 2020 has been, you never know what's going to happen anymore. It's crazy to think that way, but we're all definitely going to do our best and stay as healthy as we can. I think my love for the game is going to outweigh my fear of this whole thing once I get out there."
With David Price the highest-profile player who has decided not to play in 2020, it's clear that health and safety is weighing heavily on the minds of many players.
"David Price, I respect his opinion," Martinez said. "It's a scary time right now, and I'm sure he's doing what he thinks is best for his family. You've got to respect that. You wish him the best, honestly."