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MLB’s first round of coronavirus testing shows low positivity rate

MLB’s first round of coronavirus testing shows low positivity rate

An enormous question hovered over the first day of workouts across Major League Baseball on Friday: who would test positive for coronavirus?

The league and MLBPA jointly released the first round of testing results late Friday. They are encouraging. But also just one step.

Only 38 individuals -- 31 players and seven staff members -- tested positive out of 3,185 samples collected and tested. That’s a 1.2 percent positivity rate, well below the recently surging national average of 7.4 percent, according to John Hopkins University.

No one on the Nationals has tested positive yet, according to Davey Martinez. Across the league, 19 of the 30 teams had an individual test positive in the first round of results.

Three players in the Nationals’ original 60-man player pool have opted not to play this season. Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross decided earlier in the week to sit out. Veteran catcher Welington Castillo chose later in the week to stay in the Dominican Republic instead of play.

RELATED: WELINGTON CASTILLO OPTS OUT OF 2020 MLB SEASON

“I didn’t talk to Welington,” Mike Rizzo said Friday. “He spoke to Davey and one of our assistant GMs. But I had a long conversation with Zim. Those are tough decisions, kind of courageous decisions in my mind. The easy path is to try to grind it out and take your chances. But these two guys, Joe and Zim, felt it wasn’t worth the risk. We support both of them. These decisions were tough for them. We certainly didn’t try to talk them out of it, by any way, shape or form. We supported them greatly and admire them for it, because these were tough decisions.”

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The tests, results and reactions will be a daily chore for the league from now until the postseason -- if there is one -- concludes. And, a much more complicated scenario begins with the season on July 23. The league is attempting a travel plan no other sport has remotely considered. But, the first-day returns are positive thanks to the amount of those testing negative.

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Nationals pull Stephen Strasburg after 16 pitches with apparent hand injury

Nationals pull Stephen Strasburg after 16 pitches with apparent hand injury

Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg was pulled just 16 pitches into his start against the Orioles on Friday after visibly shaking his hand and wincing after several pitches.

The reigning World Series MVP missed the start of the season with a nerve issue in his throwing hand. He returned to the mound Sunday, also against Baltimore, and cruised through four innings before things fell apart in the fifth. On Wednesday, Nationals manager Davey Martinez expressed concern with how he was still feeling a tingling sensation in his hand.

“I was a little bit concerned,” Martinez said during a Zoom press conference. “We will see how he feels. Yesterday he threw a little bit. He still felt it, so we will see where he is at. It’s raining right now, so we will see if he can go out there and throw again today. But we will definitely have to keep an eye on it. It’s a weird thing. He doesn’t feel it all the time. I know he’s in the training room working with the staff and trying to get it to go away.”

Strasburg faced only three batters Friday before getting the hook. He recorded two outs around a solo home run off the bat of outfielder Anthony Santander and was replaced by right-hander Erick Fedde.

The news comes on the heels of the Nationals losing second baseman Starlin Castro to a broken wrist and announcing that lefty reliever Sam Freeman was transferred to the 60-Day Injured List.

Strasburg is in the first season of a seven-year, $245 million extension he signed with the Nationals last offseason.

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Nationals 2B Starlin Castro breaks wrist, prospect Luis Garcia called up

Nationals 2B Starlin Castro breaks wrist, prospect Luis Garcia called up

The Nationals lost a key figure Friday night in Baltimore after Starlin Castro broke his right wrist on a fielding play in the resumption of a game postponed by the malfunctioning tarp in Nationals Park last Sunday.

His replacement is the organization’s top infield prospect, Luis Garcia, who spent last season with Double-A Harrisburg.

First, to Castro. His loss is enormous. His broken right wrist with six weeks to play likely means his season is over. The Nationals were using him as their No. 3 hitter in a lineup which had problems scoring runs as it was. He was hitting .283 entering the games Friday. The Nationals thought his second-half power surge in Miami last season would translate to this season as they tried to find offensive solutions to fill the void created by Anthony Rendon’s departure.

Garcia is a 20-year-old who has been at major-league spring training for back-to-back years. He’s large for his age (6 foot 2, 211 pounds) and hits from the left side. He said in 2019 he wanted to be “the next Juan Soto.” That needs context. Garcia was speaking to entering the major leagues at an early age and remaining there.

His glove is the better part of his game, to this point. Garcia had a .617 OPS during his full season at Harrisburg in 2019. He had not advanced past the Double-A level prior to his emergency call-up Friday.

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Garcia hit well this year at spring training in a limited sample size (25 at-bats) and most often against fringe major-league or purely minor-league competition.

Moving reliever Sam Freeman to the 60-day injured list allowed the team to add Garcia to the 40-man roster. Putting Castro on the 10-day injured list allowed the team to move Garcia, who was on the five-man traveling taxi squad, to the active 28-man roster. Davey Martinez opting for him to play over Wilmer Difo put him into the lineup Friday.

The Nationals will have to do significant shuffling with an already unproductive lineup now that Castro is no longer part of it. Asdrúbal Cabrera was moved to the No. 3 spot for Friday night’s full game. Garcia is hitting sixth in his debut.

The Nationals are 6-10 after finishing the completion of the postponed game from Sunday against the Orioles.

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