By Rob Rains
When the Cardinals began to dive into contact tracing to see who had been in close proximity to the two players that tested positive for COVID-19 last Friday, John Mozeliak had a sense that those would not be the only players and staff members affected.
He was right.
The team announced on Monday that they have had 13 positive tests for coronavirus since Friday, affecting seven players and six staff members.
“Not overly surprised,” Mozeliak said in a zoom call with the media. “The original people that had it, and the contact traces that were made, it’s all pretty logical actually.
“You think about how quickly something like this can spread, but until it touches you, you might not believe it. Needless to say we know this is very real and it moves quickly, and silently, but it can infect a lot of people fast.”
Still, the fact it has now affected almost 25 percent of the team’s roster, plus the staff members, was more than Mozeliak expected.
“I imagine I was a bit naive,” he said. “It did grow a lot quicker than I thought. … It shows you really how quickly something like this can spread. We’re fortunate because we literally have the ability to test every day. For us, even with the tools we have at our disposal, it still can move.”
As a result, Major League Baseball announced that the four-game series between the Cardinals and Tigers that was scheduled to begin on Tuesday night in Detroit has been postponed, bringing the total to seven Cardinals game postponed since Friday. That total represents ja little more than 11 percent of the team’s 60-game schedule.
The Athletic also reported on Monday that the Cardinals’ game on Aug. 13 against the White Sox at the Field of Dreams in Iowa was being canceled, although Mozeliak said he could not confirm that report. The decision was based more on logistical issues, the website said, and not because of the positive COVID-19 cases on the Cardinals.
Mozeliak, the president of baseball operations, said the hope is that the team will be able to finally leave Milwaukee – where the traveling party has been quarantined in their hotel rooms since Friday – on Wednesday and fly to St. Louis. The team has workouts planned for Wednesday and Thursday at Busch Stadium, if they are allowed to travel, with hopes of resuming their season on Friday night against the Cubs.
The team has only had one positive case in the last 24 hours, he said.
Of the players and staff members who tested positive, Mozeliak said five were asymptomatic, and eight had a variety of “mild” symptoms such as headaches, coughs, sniffles and low-grade fevers. All of those players and staff members have returned to their homes, driving rental cars for the six-hour trip.
Mozeliak said all of those with symptoms did not develop those symptoms until after they had tested positive.
All of the players and staff members who tested positive have elected to keep their idenity private, Mozeliak said. He also would not provide a breakdown of the staff members affected, and whether they were on-field personnel such as coaches, or support staff members.
Mozeliak did say, however, he expects the team will have to augment that staff if the Cardinals season resumes on Friday, in addition to players who will have to be added to the roster from their satellite camp in Springfield.
While most of his time to this point has been spent working with the heath situation, Mozeliak said he intended to begin considering potential roster decisions on Monday night.
“It will look a little different,” he said about the roster. The 30-man roster limit is scheduled to drop to 28 on Thursday, one day before the Cardinals hope to resume playing.
“Overall I think we can withstand this,” he said. “How long will it take for someone to return? These are all unknowns. It’s not like a sprained ankle where you might have an idea when someone is coming back. Every day we are learning as we go.”
Players who test positive have to be out for at least seven days during which they are not tested and then must have two consecutive negative tests before they would be allowed to rejoin the team, Mozeliak said. Players also have to pass a cardio exam.
For the team to be cleared to travel and leave Milwaukee, there has to be two consecutive days with negative test results, Mozeliak said.
The contact tracing, Mozeliak said, left him very confident that the first players who contacted the virus did so in St. Louis before the team traveled to Minneapolis last Monday on their first road trip of the season.
“It’s not like, ‘We got caught’ and 28 other teams haven’t,” Mozeliak said. “In fairness, you’re in a pandemic. It’s almost impossible to say that we can build a dome around ourselves and move from city to city, our home to the ballpark. We understood there was going to be risk.
“It’s just the inherent risk of playing in a pandemic. … The point is anything can happen. We tried to put things in place that would prevent this from happening but it just shows you how challenging that is.”
The challenge now is to get healthy players back on the field.
“We’re going to do everything we can to try to play,” Mozeliak said. “The morale up here is good, all things considered. I do think people are tired of sitting in their room but you’ve got to put safety first. Ultimately we’ve just got to wear it for a couple of days and hopefully we get the clearance to travel.”
Mozeliak said players he has texted with have told him they are trying to stay as physically active in their rooms as possible by doing exercises and even throwing baseballs into their mattresses positioned against a wall.
He said he is concerned about the possibility of injuries among players as they try to return after spending so many consecutive days confined to their hotel rooms.
“Hopefully everybody is finding some way to do something,” he said, “whether it’s yoga, stretching, pushups, sit ups, just moving their body. Clearly having at least two days before we have to play a game was helpful.”
The only time players have been allowed to leave their rooms is to go to a different part of the hotel to take another coronavirus test. Meals are arranged by the team’s performance department and left outside the player’s door.
“Obviously guys would love to find a way to get out of here but protocols say to stay,” Mozeliak said. “Everybody understands that.
“This is going to be complicated. There’s going to be some daunting days. Right now we’re in a very trying time for this organization. … There’s no way to get around that.”
John Mozeliak interview after Cards-Tigers series postponed and more positive cases reported: CLICK HERE
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Photo by AP courtesy of KSDK Sports