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MLB probing for source of Marlins’ Covid-19 outbreak

Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly last weekend during a game at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Major League Baseball is now investigating for the source of the Marlins' outbreak of Covid-19 among the club. (Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Major League Baseball is conducting an investigation, according to multiple reports and industry sources, into the source of the Miami Marlins’ outbreak of Covid-19 that has resulted in a week-long suspension of the club’s season.

That outbreak, sources said, has now reached 18 members of the club’s traveling party, including 16 players, after newly arrived testing results showed another new positive case.

At issue is whether or not health and safety protocols agreed to between the league and MLB Players Association were violated and prompted the outbreak. Earlier this week in an interview on MLB Network, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said the league has “some theories as to what happened,” but said there was “nothing definitive at this point” detailing the source of the outbreak.

In a subsequent statement announcing the suspension of the Marlins’ game schedule, the league added, “the difficult circumstances of one club reinforce the vital need to be diligent with the protocols in all ways, both on and off the field.”

The Marlins played the Atlanta Braves in an exhibition game on July 22 and then flew to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to begin the regular season two days later against the Phillies. Over the weekend, the Marlins initially learned of four Covid-19 positives among the team. And by the morning of the July 27, the situation had exploded into the larger outbreak. Given testing delays and the time required for the virus to show up as a positive, much of the league’s inquiry will focus on the club’s time in Atlanta.

Another outstanding question surrounding the Marlins is whether its players will be paid for the seven games that have been postponed. MLB has not yet said what, if any, rescheduling modifications will be made for the club. A deal between the league and union back in March called for players to be pay on a prorated basis based on the number of games played should the league’s season be interrupted or canceled after play begins. The union, however, is said to be pushing for an exception.

According to multiple reports, MLB has agreed to pay players of the New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, and Washington Nationals, which each have had multiple game postponements this week as a result of the Marlins’ situation.

In the meantime, the Marlins are remaining in Philadelphia to quarantine. Once the club returns to Florida, they will be permitted to play at Marlins Park. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez had indicated a preference for the club to quarantine for 14 days upon returning to Florida. But a spokesman for state Governor Ron DeSantis told the Miami Herald the club can play at home next week if MLB seeks to have them do that.

“They were traveling from a state that is not a quarantine state and therefore we rely on the Marlins to work with the department of health to be responsible corporate citizens and take actions conducive to the health and well-being of their fans of players,” said Fred Piccolo, DeSantis’ spokesman, to the Herald.

The Marlins’ schedule for next week, assuming their season suspension lifts as expected on August 3, remains unclear. The club was due to begin their home schedule against the Phillies. But Yankees manager Aaron Boone said MLB is working on schedule adjustments that will now see the Phillies and Yankees play a total of four times between August 3-6, with those contests split between Philadelphia and New York.

MLB’s regionally based schedule for the 2020 season was designed in part to accommodate needed shifts in game dates, locations, and opponents because of factors related to Covid-19.

“There are still questions about next week’s schedule,” said Phillies general manager Matt Klentak. “The league is managing that process but I think it is very possible that we will have a different opponent next week.”