The Phillies learned Thursday that two more employees tested positive for the coronavirus, forcing them to postpone their weekend series at Citizens Bank Park against the Blue Jays and placing severe doubt on the team’s ability to play a full 60-game season in 2020.
The Phillies said a major-league coach and a member of the home clubhouse staff tested positive on Wednesday as the team conducts daily coronavirus testing to monitor the fallout from last weekend’s series against the Marlins. Thursday’s findings could be proof that the virus spread between the two teams last weekend.
A member of the Phillies visiting clubhouse staff tested positive earlier in the week, but all Phillies players have so far tested negative. It could take up to two weeks for an infected person to test positive.
The team canceled its practice on Thursday and said Citizens Bank Park is closed until further notice. The Phillies had returned to the ballpark on Wednesday for their first workout since Sunday’s series finale against Miami.
“Major League Baseball will coordinate with health experts and the Major League Baseball Players Association in planning for the Phillies’ resumption of play, and will provide further scheduling updates as necessary,” the league said in a statement.
The Phillies, due to privacy laws, did not disclose the employees who tested positive. Pitching coach Bryan Price was absent from the final two games of the Marlins’ series, but general manager Matt Klentak said Price never tested positive for coronavirus and stayed home as a precaution after not feeling well. He was cleared Wednesday to return to the team.
Since last Friday, the Marlins have had 17 players and two coaches test positive for the coronavirus. Their traveling party remains isolated in a Center City hotel and Major League Baseball, according to reports, is currently investigating how the Marlins’ outbreak began.
The Marlins have signed several players this week, seeming to add reinforcements with the hope that their season will soon resume. There were 10 major-league games scheduled for Thursday as the season rolled on while the Phillies and Marlins remained in an indefinite pause.
The Phillies were scheduled to play three games this weekend as the road team in South Philadelphia against the Blue Jays, who have been barred from playing in Toronto this season by the Canadian government due to coronavirus concerns. The vagabond Blue Jays are now planning to stay in Washington, where they played two games this week as the home team in the Nationals’ ballpark.
The weekend postponement gives the Phillies seven games to reschedule as they had four games postponed this week against the Yankees. By Sunday, the Phillies and Marlins will have played just three games while two division rivals -- the Mets and Braves -- have played 10.
If the Phillies are to play 60 games this season, they would have to play 57 games in 56 days to complete the season by Sept. 27. That seems unlikely, meaning Major League Baseball will likely have to use winning percentage instead of wins to determine playoff teams if the Phillies and Marlins can resume their seasons.
“I think there are a lot of challenges this year and we are all going to have to be a little flexible,” Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said Wednesday.
ESPN reported Wednesday night that Miami’s outbreak prompted Major League Baseball to encourage players to only leave hotels in road cities for games, mandate the use of surgical masks instead of cloth masks during travel, and require every team to travel with a compliance officer who ensures teams are following the league’s safety protocol.
The Phillies were scheduled to play the Marlins on Tuesday in Miami, but Yankees manager Aaron Boone said his team would instead begin a four-game set on Monday against the Phillies.
But now that switch is uncertain as the Phillies would likely have to return to the ballpark for some baseball activity before playing a game on Monday. For now, the Phillies expect to report each day to Citizens Bank Park for coronavirus testing in their parking garage. The ballpark remains closed as the Phillies wait to learn when they’ll play again.
“We all recognized that this season was going to present a lot of challenges for all parties involved -- players, teams, everybody was going to need to be flexible,” Klentak said Wednesday. “Now, it’s one thing to say that, but you don’t know how that is going to manifest itself. It’s another thing to contend with it as it is happening in real time, which is what the Phillies and the league are facing this week.”