‘I’m scared’: Marlins’ rash of positive COVID-19 tests sends chills across MLB

News of a coronavirus outbreak among the Miami Marlins put players and staffers across Major League Baseball on high alert, with many expressing concern and a level of fear not typically associated with professional athletics.

The Washington Nationals are scheduled to visit Miami – one of the country’s biggest COVID-19 hot spots – next weekend, and manager Dave Martinez hopes that the league “does the right thing” and does not compel his team to travel there.

Martinez has plenty of cause for concern: He missed three games in September 2019 after undergoing a cardiac catheterization, and became emotional during a video call with reporters Monday.

"I'm going to be honest with you, I'm scared,” said Martinez, who says he washes his hands “99 times a day” and expressed worry for the many friends he has on the Marlins.

Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez says he's "scared" about the rash of positive COVID-19 tests among the Miami Marlins. (Photo: Tommy Gilligan, USA TODAY Sports)

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“My level of concern went from an eight to a 12.”

Martinez also said he’d certainly discuss opt-out options with his players; The defending World Series champions already had three players – Ryan Zimmerman, Joe Ross and Welington Castillo – opt out.

But the 14 positive tests among Marlins players and staff, prompting the postponement of their home opener Monday at Baltimore, reverberated among multiple teams.

"When something like that happens,” says Angels pitching coach Mickey Callaway, “it makes everyone a tick more nervous than they already are."

Angels manager Joe Maddon said it is "really important to trace how it occurred…and draw up your plan to try to solve it." Given the incubation period of the coronavirus, experts believe it is highly likely the first Marlin in the cluster contracted it in Florida. 

How it spread is the question everyone's wondering. The Marlins' two exhibition games in Atlanta included a rain delay, and players who typically would have been seated in the stands under MLB's health and safety protocols waited out the weather in the dugout. 

Meanwhile, once games began, curbing emotion proved more difficult. The Tampa Bay Rays' 10-inning walk-off win over Toronto on Sunday featured the usual players and staff spilling out of the dugout for a socially tight celebration.

"We probably need to do a better job of recognizing that. It is tough," says Rays manager Kevin Cash, who joined the celebration. "But it’s better to be tough (on it) than have an outbreak.

"I need to do a better job of holding everyone accountable during those celebrations.

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