Aaron Nola will not pitch this weekend when the Phillies return from the All-Star break as he remains in COVID-19 protocols following a close contact last week with Alec Bohm, who tested positive for the coronavirus.
Nola was scratched Sunday from his final start of the first half and placed on the COVID-19 injured list. The Phillies said Nola tested negative for the virus, but players must spend at least a week on the injured list after coming in contact with an infected person.
Matt Moore will start Friday’s opener against Miami followed by Zach Eflin in second game. Vince Velasquez will start Saturday and Zack Wheeler will pitch Sunday’s series finale. Wheeler, the major-league leader in innings, threw three pitches in Tuesday’s All-Star Game and the Phillies will give him an extended break before he starts the second half.
The Phillies are expected to have at least four players - Nola, Bohm, and relief pitchers Connor Brogdon and Bailey Falter - on the COVID-19 injured list for Friday’s doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park. There is a chance that number could grow before Friday’s game if more players were identified as close contacts or if additional players test positive. Bohm tested positive last Saturday and is out until at least Wednesday.
The Phillies are one of just seven teams to not have reached at least 85% of their players and essential personnel vaccinated against COVID-19. The team does not expect to reach the threshold this season.
Until they do, unvaccinated players and staff are subject to contact tracing after someone tests positive. Nola, Brogdon, and Falter were identified as close contacts by the data supplied by the tracking devices the Phillies must wear until they reach the 85%.
In April, the Phillies placed three players and five coaches into COVID-19 protocols. The Phillies hoped that would be enough to motivate players to receive the vaccines, which were then becoming widely available. But they did not get the participation they had hoped.
“You’re going to have little things like this pop up probably more than teams that are vaccinated,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said Sunday. “You just pray that they’re either a false positive or the guys that are nearby don’t get it. But in the meantime, sometimes you have to lose players that don’t necessarily have it, and that’s the frustrating part.”