As the Boston Red Sox' player rep, Matt Barnes provided input into the COVID protocols that players across baseball would follow this spring. He knew the ins and outs of the dos and don'ts as well as anyone.
So imagine his combination of shock, surprise, and embarrassment when he failed a coronavirus test last week, forcing three teammates into quarantine and introducing some epic uncertainty into the 2021 Red Sox season.
"I can tell you before we had COVID back in 2018 or 2019, I didn't go anywhere in spring training anyways, let alone when we have a global pandemic," Barnes said on Tuesday. "It was crazy to me when I found out on Saturday morning. I was like, 'There's no way, I haven't gone anywhere.'"
It turns out Barnes was right. After eight successive tests came back negative, Barnes was cleared to rejoin the team Monday, with his absence characterized as a "non-infectious positive," which sounds an awful lot like a false positive.
"I'm not a medical expert," Barnes said. "Frankly, I don't really care how it's labeled. The only thing that matters to me is I've got negatives, I'm back with the team, and ready to go now."
That doesn't change the fact that the weekend was pretty stressful for Barnes, who experienced no symptoms, but also knew he didn't have any COVID antibodies when the spring began.
"I went to the grocery store for 30 minutes and that was it," he said. "Other than that, it was the field and my house. And I felt completely fine. So I was definitely like, it didn't feel right, but at the same time, all the necessary protocols need to be taken just in case, because at the end of the day, this is a crazy virus that there are still parts that people probably don't understand, and crazy things can happen.
"At that point, when I found out on Saturday morning, my main focus then became to do everything I could to make sure nobody else on the team was going to be put in jeopardy."
Right-handers Matt Andriese, Garrett Richards, and Garrett Whitlock had already been labeled close contacts, however, and forced to quarantine.
"If I had done something dumb where I had gone somewhere I shouldn't have, or I had people in town, or I had done something or even if I was symptomatic, I was like, man, I could maybe see this," Barnes said.
"I still would've beaten myself up, but sitting there trying to figure out where I could've gotten this from having followed all the protocols, making sure I wasn't putting myself or anyone else in jeopardy, especially five days before the season starts, six days before the season starts."
The quarantine of one teammate in particular bothered Barnes -- Whitlock, a rule 5 pick from the Yankees who hadn't pitched in over a year because of Tommy John surgery and was now possibly going to be denied his first spot on an Opening Day roster.
"I mean Whitlock, I was like, 'Man, this is going to be his first one,'" Barnes said. "I'm like, 'Imagine if he missed it because I was an idiot,' but I didn't do anything. So I'm sitting there kind of wrestling with those two things, and I can tell you that I'm super relieved.
"Super happy that it was just a misunderstanding and we are good to go at full strength, and we'll have everyone ready to go for Thursday."