It’s not exactly the major-league debut that Santiago Espinal had been planning on, but in 2020, it will have to do.
The rookie infielder, who played his first game with the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday at Tampa Bay, says he’s protecting himself from COVID-19 the best way he knows how: simply by staying put.
“The only thing that we can do is take care of each other,” Espinal said Monday in a videoconference call before Monday night’s game against the World Series champion Washington Nationals.
“Personally, me, I don’t even go out. I order my food in the room, I eat in the room, I put everything I need in the room and I just stay in the room. I don’t go out because I don’t want to [test] positive.”
How much longer Espinal’s rookie season will last remains an open question.
Marlins home opener cancelled
Monday’s Miami Marlins home opener was abruptly cancelled on the weekend after a number of players tested positive for COVID-19, including Espinal’s close friend Harold Ramirez. The New York-Philadelphia game was also called off, since the Yankees would have been in the same clubhouse the Marlins used last weekend.
The biggest challenges still lie ahead, said Jays manager Charlie Montoyo — particularly early next month, when the Jays are scheduled to host Miami at Sahlen Field in Buffalo. The Jays also have two more series with Tampa Bay next month — one home, one away — and a road series in Miami in early September.
What happened to the Marlins “could happen to any team,” Montoyo said, offering his sympathies and best wishes to Toronto’s Florida rival.
“The moment we left Canada, there was concern — you know, we’ve got to follow the guidelines. It’s not going to be easy. We’re going to Florida, that’s a hot spot. So we talk about it all the time and we meet with the coaches every day and make sure we keep communicating with the guys just to be careful and follow the guidelines.”
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Tanner Roark, a former National who signed with the Jays at the end of last year as a free agent, said when players take to the field, it’s important not to dwell on what he described as “a very weird season for everybody.”
“You’ve just got to be extremely careful. And keep your fingers crossed, I guess,” shrugged Roark, who was far more comfortable talking about his return to a familiar city and ballpark than he was about the complications arising from the pandemic.
“I’m excited,” he said. “It’s going to be weird, definitely, with no fans — it already has been weird with no fans — but I’m excited to be back, and I know the mound just like the back of my hand, so I’ll be ready to go.”
‘We have to be careful with this stuff’
Espinal said he’s not spoken with anyone with the Marlins organization since word of the test results became public.
Nor, he said, have the Jays had any recent player meetings beyond a discussion that took place before the season got underway.
“We came to an agreement where, like, we have to be careful with this stuff, this stuff is serious,” Espinal said. “We’ve been taking care of that stuff too, so it’s very good.”
The positive test results have cast a pall over a stalled, abbreviated season that’s not even a week old, thanks to a pandemic that has already forced the Jays to call Buffalo home after the federal government refused to let them play in Canada.
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Roark said the decision was made to play ball, so it’s time to for the players and the teams to execute that decision as best they can.
Espinal, for one, isn’t letting the circumstances get him down.
“I know what’s going on and I know what is happening in the world, so what I’m trying to do is try to be careful,” he said.
“When I get on the field, when I get here in the locker room, my focus is to do my job and to try to help the team win. And as soon as that the game is over, I just try to be careful. Stay in my room. And that’s it.”
Jays closer Giles lands on injured reserve
The Blue Jays have placed closer Ken Giles on the injured list with an elbow injury.
Giles left Toronto’s 6-5 loss at Tampa Bay on Sunday with soreness in his right elbow.
Montoyo said the team is awaiting results of an MRI to determine the severity of the problem.
Giles also had problems with his right elbow last season.
Montoyo said he could see Anthony Bass taking on closing duties until Giles is cleared to return.
An corresponding moves, the Blue Jays activated right-handed pitcher Wilmer Font from the injured list and left-hander Ryan Borucki from the taxi squad.