Washington star Juan Soto was taken out of Thursday’s opener against the Yankees because he tested positive for coronavirus. Alex Brandon/Associated Press

 

WASHINGTON — Juan Soto has tested positive for coronavirus and will miss the start of the season, Washington Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said Thursday afternoon.

Soto was last tested Tuesday and did not have any symptoms in the time since, according to two people with knowledge of his condition, and the Nationals revealed his status less than five hours before the scheduled first pitch against the New York Yankees.

Soto, 21, is asymptomatic and will have to receive back-to-back negative test results before returning to play, according to MLB’s protocol. Rizzo told reporters Thursday that no other players or coaches will have to quarantine after the Nationals conducted thorough contact tracing. Soto’s positive test was first reported by ESPN.

“Next man up, let’s go,” Rizzo said, when asked what it is like to suddenly lose a key player so close to the season. “We have to make our roster move. We have to contact everybody we have to contact. Of course, our first priority is to take care of Juan and his family and then we go in our baseball mode.”

The Nationals have placed Soto on the coronavirus-related injured list, which means he will not count against their 40-man roster or 60-player club pool limits. Soto has had a tough start to the 2020 season, as he had to quarantine for 14 days after flying from the Dominican Republic to the U.S. on July 1. Soto and five other Nationals rode on one of two MLB-chartered flights, then flew from Miami to Newark, N.J., then flew from Newark to Washington.

From there, Soto did not test positive during intake screening on July 2. But players from the flights tested positive – including one of Soto’s teammates – which led to two weeks of isolation in a hotel by the ballpark, as mandated by the District of Columbia, which has since relaxed those regulations for the Nationals, allowing players and coaches to go to and from work while quarantining.

Soto, though, will isolate until he tests negative in back-to-back tests that are at least 24 hours apart. With MLB testing players, coaches and staff members every other day, Soto’s last negative result came Tuesday from a saliva sample collected Sunday. Since, he worked out at Nationals Park, played in an exhibition at Camden Yards in Baltimore, and played in another exhibition in Washington. Four days passed between Soto’s test that produced a negative result and him receiving a positive result.

“At this time, there is nobody else unavailable because of the contact tracing,” Rizzo said. “We are casting a wide net.”

Rizzo continued: “It’s a challenge, but we’ve faced challenges before. We like the depth that we have on this roster. We like the players that are going to fill in for him. They’re not going to replace Soto, but we’re going to have to win games in a different way.”

The Nationals will carry five outfielders on their 30-man roster to start the year, including expected starters Victor Robles and Adam Eaton, and reserves Michael A. Taylor, Andrew Stevenson and Emilio Bonifacio. Stevenson has regularly played left in summer training, and Taylor’s versatility makes him a fit in any of the three outfield spots.

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