The start of the Nationals’ 2021 season has been delayed a second time after MLB decided Friday to postpone the club’s opening series against the New York Mets.
“Major League Baseball announced today that the remainder of this weekend’s series between the host Washington Nationals and the New York Mets at Nationals Park, which includes games scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, has been postponed due to continued follow-up testing and contact tracing involving members of the Nationals organization,” the team said in a statement. “We will continue to provide scheduling updates as available.”
President of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo also announced on a Zoom call Friday that in addition to the three players that had already been confirmed to have tested positive, another has joined them. In addition, five players and a staff member are in quarantine after being deemed close contacts. Among the four positive cases, only one has had a fever while the other three players are asymptomatic.
The earliest the Nationals can now begin their season is Monday against the Atlanta Braves. Rizzo has said that he expects to make several roster moves once they’ve been cleared to play, though Opening Day starter Max Scherzer is still expected to pitch in their first game back. All players at the Nationals’ alternate site in Fredericksburg have tested negative and will be available to provide reinforcements by the time the team resumes play.
"We've got a really good team that we're anxious to see play and the depth of this organization will have to get us out of the gates sooner rather than later," Rizzo said Friday. "But we're excited to toe the rubber and play baseball and real baseball games with real fans in the stands.
"I have confidence in the players that are going to be on the roster and that's why you build depth in an organization. I would say it's unfortunate that this happened right at Opening Day but is it any worse than having it happening in the middle of the season when you've played half the season? So we're gonna take this as it is, we're going to care for our players, care for their families, make sure we do the right thing, put the best 26 players on the field whenever we play — be it Monday or whenever we start the season — and get after whoever we're playing."
As of Thursday afternoon, Rizzo said it was “unclear” how the virus made its way into Nationals camp but said none of the players or coaches were believed to have violated COVID protocols.