There was little choice for Major League Baseball but to accept that it would lose players this season to the coronavirus when it decided to start the season amid a pandemic.
Baseball officials expected that players would test positive, show symptoms, or come in contact with a person infected by the virus. The Phillies, in just the first days of training to prepare for a 60-game season, have already been without players for all of those reasons.
But it was the reason for Adam Haseley’s absence — a negative test that went missing without an explanation — that could be difficult to accept. Haseley did not test positive for the virus, show symptoms, or come into contact with an infected person, yet he was still barred from reporting to camp. The Phillies spent the first four days of summer camp without the player projected to start the season in center field.
Haseley practiced Tuesday and the testing glitch should not affect his readiness for the season. But what would happen if his test — players are tested every other day — went missing next month and the Phillies had to play a series without one of their starters?
“I think we all have concerns about that,” manager Joe Girardi said. “When there are probably 1,500 to 1,800 tests a day, to say that they would all be perfect I think is unrealistic. I think we have to roll with it. That doesn’t mean we’re going to be happy about it or that we won’t be upset if it happens. But it would be naive of us to think they are going to be perfect. Sometimes we have cases that are going to be pending for another day, and it seems they come back negative. It’s just part of the process that we have to learn to deal with. And hopefully if we get by this first week and they don’t have 3,000 tests coming in a day, it will get better.”
Haseley reported to Philadelphia last week after spending baseball’s three-month shutdown at home in Orlando. He had an intake screening on Wednesday morning at Citizens Bank Park, a test that every player and staff member had last week before camp began. Haseley was told the next two mornings that the Phillies were still waiting on his test. Then on Saturday, Haseley was told that there was an error with his test. He was able to take a rapid test on Monday morning, which cleared him to practice on Tuesday after missing the start of camp.
“To my knowledge, mine was one of the only — if not the only — one that was in this situation,” Haseley said. “But you know, obviously with the Fourth of July weekend and all that stuff, I understood that it was a little bit tough. I was able to move around at home. I didn’t think it was a huge deal. It was supposed to be my first day on Saturday anyways because I had to wait 48 hours to get my results. As soon as I learned that there was an error, the next thing was to get the right results. I didn’t personally think it was too big of a deal.”
Hours after Haseley took batting practice in South Philadelphia, the San Francisco Giants canceled their workout Tuesday because players who had been tested on Saturday had yet to receive results. The Nationals, Astros, Cardinals, Cubs, and Angels all either suspended or canceled their workouts on Monday or Tuesday because of similar delays with testing.
Major League Baseball repurposed an anti-doping laboratory in Utah to process its coronavirus tests this season. The tests are administered at ballparks and then shipped to Utah, with results expected within 24 hours. So far, that timeline has been a challenge. MLB said Monday that the delays were due to the Fourth of July weekend and that it does not expect a recurrence.
“I hope that they won’t continue,” general manager Matt Klentak said. “My hope is that when an issue presents itself early in spring training like this that it gives all parties the time to make the necessary adjustments and limit the instances of something like this occurring in the future. I think we need to be realistic as well. I don’t know the numbers. But there are huge volumes of tests taking place daily. I’m not trying to make excuses for the process, but when you have the volume of tests like this, I think it’s reasonable to expect that it’s not going to go perfectly, especially at the beginning.”
Haseley reached the majors last June and posted a .720 OPS in 67 games during a promising rookie season. He was competing in spring training with Roman Quinn to begin 2020 as the team’s starting center fielder. With the season paused, Haseley worked out at a facility in Orlando alongside former Phillies infielder Brad Miller. Haseley was given a key to the front door and was able to face a Royals pitcher to keep his swing sharp.
His season was ready to begin last week when he arrived in Philadelphia, but then it was paused again for a few days. The Phillies lost a key player for the start of summer camp and now they hope they don’t inexplicably lose any more once the season starts.
“It’s frustrating for a player like Adam Haseley or to the Phillies when something like that happens,” Klentak said. “And our hope throughout the league is that as we work through these instances early, that we will be able to smooth them out for later in camp and later in the season.”