WASHINGTON — Before the Mets and Nationals could open the 2021 season, a leftover uninvited guest from last year spoiled the plan.
Following additional positive COVID-19 results among Nationals players, MLB postponed Thursday night’s opener at Nationals Park “out of an abundance of caution” and announced that Friday’s off day isn’t a candidate for a makeup.
According to Nationals president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo, two players tested positive Thursday and another is inconclusive, but likely positive. Earlier in the week, a first Nationals player tested positive, sending five players/coaches in close contact into quarantine. The two new positives and inconclusive result came from that quarantined group.
The Mets are operating with the belief the opener will be played Saturday, but still unclear is the potential starting time. Even so, MLB officials are taking a more measured approach and will wait until at least Friday, when additional test results are received, before revealing a plan.
“I was bummed out because I wanted this one, I wanted to play,” said Francisco Lindor, a day after agreeing to a 10-year contract extension with the Mets worth $341 million. “I know we are going to have an Opening Day, it’s just a matter of when. For us position players it’s not as bad, but for the pitching staff it kind of sucks because they have been preparing themselves to pitch every five days. They have been preparing for this day and then on and on. I wanted to see some jets flying over me today. I wanted to see some flags out on the field and I want to see some fans. I was bummed out for sure.”
The Mets worked out Thursday and expect to hold another session Friday. The derailment comes after a spring training in which the Mets played all their exhibition games as scheduled, eluding the COVID cloud.
Last year the Mets had four games postponed in August after catcher Tomas Nido and third-base coach Gary DiSarcina tested positive for COVID-19 during a series in Miami.
“It’s unfortunate, these are things that are still happening in the world, and to be honest with you it’s not a surprise,” manager Luis Rojas said. “We have been in situations like this since last year. The health is the number one thing in the world, because we are taking care of ourselves, everyone is carrying their mask everywhere and we are doing everything we need to do to make sure we are protecting each other, but we know this is something that can happen. It’s unfortunate.”
Rojas said he was informed Thursday morning by acting general manager Zack Scott about the opener’s postponement. Rojas said he is “optimistic” the Mets’ season will begin Saturday.
The fact the Mets and Nationals are scheduled to play 19 times within the NL East will allow for an easy makeup at some point in the season. After departing Washington on Sunday, the Mets are scheduled to play a three-game series in Philadelphia before heading to Citi Field for Thursday’s home opener.
If the Mets’ season begins Saturday without further postponements, Jacob deGrom would be in position to pitch the season opener and home opener.
Following safety protocols, Rojas said, has been stressed in meetings between team officials and MLB. The manager indicated there’s been at least one email sent from MLB to the club after a player or staff member was spotted without a mask in the dugout during a game.
“We want to be a model for [safety] as we’re working and bringing baseball to our fan base and bringing baseball to America and to the world,” Rojas said. “The No. 1 goal is that, to be healthy and have our families healthy and follow the protocols.”