There were more than a few anxious moments over the past couple days as the Twins awaited results from their COVID-19 tests, hoping they had stemmed the outbreak that had emerged within their clubhouse.
As they waited, some players advantage of the grassy knoll at their team hotel. Some threw. Some ran. Some did other workouts. Anything to get outside and get their minds off their pending test results.
Manager Rocco Baldelli had his fair share of jittery moments in his hotel room, sitting and waiting for what he hoped was a clean bill of health for the entire traveling party after three players — Andrelton Simmons, Max Kepler and Kyle Garlick — and an unnamed staff member had tested positive for the virus within the last week.
Eventually that came, and after two straight days of negative tests for the group, the Twins were able to fly north to take on the Athletics, departing Southern California on Monday night.
“There’s not much you can do. You’re kind of sitting there on your hands and you’re kind of stuck just at the mercy of some test results, finding out what’s already been done,” Baldelli said. “You can’t walk those things back once you get those types of results, so we were waiting and we were very patient and maybe a little jittery as we were waiting for these tests to come back.”
The Twins placed outfielders Kepler and Garlick on the COVID-19 injured list on Tuesday afternoon, as well as reliever Caleb Thielbar. Thielbar has not tested positive for the virus yet, but he was determined to be a close contact. All three are currently in quarantine at the team hotel near Anaheim. Should Thielbar continue to test negative, the period of time he will have to miss will be less than Kepler, Garlick and Simmons.
So far, Baldelli said all players who have tested positive have not exhibited anything more than mild symptoms.
“I think the guys are a little run-down, a little cough, maybe. Things like that. But nothing crazy,” Baldelli said. “I believe someone did maybe lose their sense of taste, but as far as anything worsening beyond that or anything that would warrant any sort of attention at all medically, no. We haven’t had anything like that.”
With that trio going on the injured list on Tuesday, the Twins activated outfielder Brent Rooker (cervical strain) from the IL, recalled infielder Travis Blankenhorn and selected the contract of reliever Luke Farrell. Lewis Thorpe, who started on Friday, served as the 27th man for the doubleheader.
For the time being, with both Garlick and Kepler out, the Twins are a bit thin in the outfield. Byron Buxton, who had been sidelined with a minor hamstring strain is back, a tremendous help for the Twins as they piece together their outfield situation. Jake Cave and Rooker are available too, and both Luis Arraez and Willians Astudillo can man corner outfield spots.
All four players the Twins added on Tuesday had been with them on the road trip. Even though they’re down an outfielder, Baldelli said they didn’t come close to flying someone in for their series against the Athletics with commercial travel coming with its own potential COVID-19 risks.
Though the traveling party has now had multiple days now with all negative test results, Baldelli said he doesn’t yet feel as if the team is in the clear at this point. He said he’d like to get through the next week with no issues at all before he starts feeling comfortable that the “entry of COVID into the clubhouse is resolved.”
But for now, the Twins are just happy to get back on the field.
“It’s been a little stop and go for us. We just want to get out there and be safe, and get out there and play baseball,” Baldelli said. “That’s what our guys want, to really boil it down.”