Yanks, Rockies deal with COVID surges after All-Star break

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Boston Red Sox players take batting practice at Yankee Stadium, Thursday, July 15, 2021, in New York. The Yankees' post-All-Star break opener against the Red Sox on Thursday night was postponed because of positive COVID-19 tests among New York pitchers Jonathan Loaisiga, Nestor Cortes Jr. and Wandy Peralta. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

NEW YORK – For the first time in months, COVID-19 is creating chaos around Major League Baseball.

The Yankees and Rockies are dealing with coronavirus outbreaks sidelining a total of 10 players and two coaches, including New York slugger Aaron Judge and Colorado manager Bud Black, as baseball attempts to resume play following its All-Star break.

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The Red Sox and Yankees played as scheduled Friday night, a day after their series opener was postponed due to New York's six-player outbreak.

Judge, third baseman Gio Urshela and catcher Kyle Higashioka were added to the COVID-19 injured list Friday, joining pitchers Jonathan Loaisiga, Nestor Cortes Jr. and Wandy Peralta. Loaisiga went on the IL last weekend when New York was in Houston, and Cortes and Peralta were added Thursday.

Black, first base coach Ron Gideon and four players were not available for Colorado's home game Friday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the clubs still planned to play. Right-handers Antonio Senzatela, Yency Almonte and Jhoulys Chacín and outfielder Yonathan Daza were added to the COVID-19 IL.

The virus surges come as teams try to resume play following a break for Tuesday's All-Star Game in Denver. It's a step backward for a league that hadn't postponed a game over virus concerns in nearly three months.

At least one of Judge, Urshela and Higashioka was not vaccinated, the Yankees said. New York manager Aaron Boone expects each of the players who tested positive to be out at least 10 days from the time of their positive test. Some of the players are experiencing mild symptoms, but Boone said none has gotten seriously ill.

Yankees ace Gerrit Cole compared the news to being struck by “an invisible, microscopic truck.”

New York players had another round of rapid testing Friday that revealed no other positives.

The Yankees, fourth in the AL East at a disappointing 46-43, were among the first MLB teams to reach the 85% vaccination threshold that triggers a lessening of coronavirus protocols such as dropping mask use in dugouts and bullpens.

Judge started for the AL team in this week’s All-Star Game, sparking concern about a potential spread at the midsummer classic. MLB was conducting contact tracing under its protocols, and no other COVID-19-related postponements were announced around the league with every team set to play Friday night. None of the Rockies players added to the COVID IL were All-Stars.

“I hate to see this,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said before the Rockies announced their moves. “I hate to see it, but hopefully it’s only one team. I don’t know if that’s going to be the case.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who managed the NL team, said players and staff from Los Angeles have gone through two rounds of testing. Those all came back negative prior to Friday’s game against the Rockies in Denver.

“It is what it is, just got to kind of adhere to whatever they ask,” he said. “I was hoping we were past it all but unfortunately we’re not."

Rockies bench coach Mike Redmond will manage Colorado while Black is out, and Major League Data & Game Planning Coordinator Doug Bernier will coach first base. The club promoted left-handers Ben Bowden and Zac Rosscup, right-hander Antonio Santos and outfielder Sam Hilliard. The Rockies are also among the teams to reach 85% vaccination.

Redmond said he wasn't aware of any discussions about potentially postponing Friday's game. Senzatela was supposed to start for Colorado on Friday. Left-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez was slated to pitch instead.

“I can’t talk any specifics,” Redmond said. “All I can say is these guys are in MLB’s contact tracing protocols. I wish I could give you more but I can’t."

The Yankees also added first baseman Luke Voit to the injured list Friday with a bone bruise in his left knee. New York promoted four players from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: first baseman Chris Gittens, infielder Hoy Park, outfielder Greg Allen and catcher Rob Brantly. Outfielder Trey Amburgey was called up Thursday, when left-hander Zack Britton was also activated from the 10-day injured list.

“We’re really excited to go take the field tonight and have an opportunity to go up against the first-place team in our division,” Boone said. “And we expect to go play well.”

Judge and Urshela have been among the few consistent performers in New York's lineup this year. Judge is hitting .282 with 21 homers and a .901 OPS, and the slick-fielding Urshela is batting .275 with 11 homers and a .756 OPS.

“That's our reality right now,” Boone said. “We have to go make the best of it.”

Despite all of its vaccinations, the Yankees had more than a half-dozen positive COVID-19 tests in May involving staff, including pitching coach Matt Blake, third base coach Phil Nevin and first base coach Reggie Willits. Nevin, despite being vaccinated, became seriously ill with a kidney infection that kept him away from the team for more than three weeks.

Thursday’s Red Sox-Yankees game was the eighth coronavirus-related postponement this season but the first in nearly three months. Also put off were a three-game series that had the New York Mets at Washington from April 1-4, Atlanta’s game at the Nationals on April 5, two Minnesota at Los Angeles Angels games on April 17-18 and a Twins at Oakland game on April 19.

There were 45 regular-season games postponed for virus-related reasons during last year’s pandemic-shortened season but just two were not made up, between St. Louis and Detroit.

New York announced that Thursday's postponement will be made up as part of a split-admission doubleheader at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 17.


AP freelancer Mike Kelly contributed from Denver.


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