Mets-Nationals Game Postponed After Positive Coronavirus Test

WASHINGTON — Major League Baseball sailed through roughly six weeks of spring training without any major coronavirus disruptions, but just hours before first pitches were set to be thrown across the country, the problem lurched up again.

The Mets’ season-opening game against the Washington Nationals was postponed on Thursday because of at least three positive coronavirus tests among the Nationals players and because several other players were determined to have been close contacts with the individual who tested positive, which requires them to be isolated as well.

M.L.B. issued a statement Thursday saying that the game was postponed “because of ongoing contact tracing involving members of the Nationals organization. Out of an abundance of caution, the game will not be made up on Friday.”

The delay means the Mets and their fans will have to wait at least a few more days to see Francisco Lindor, their new superstar shortstop who just agreed to a 10-year, $341 million contract extension, make his Mets debut.

Mets Manager Luis Rojas said he was “pretty optimistic” the game would be played Saturday.

“This is not a surprise,” Rojas said. “We have been in situations like this last year. Health is still the No. 1 thing in the world. We are taking care of ourselves and everyone is still wearing their masks everywhere and we are doing what we need to do to make sure that we are protecting each other.”

Jacob deGrom of the Mets had been slated to start Thursday’s game against Max Scherzer of the Nationals in a matchup of Cy Young Award winners. They will likely keep those assignments for whenever the game ends up being played.

On Wednesday, Mike Rizzo, Washington’s general manager, said that five players and one staff member were already ruled out of Thursday’s game. They include the initial player who tested positive and at least four other players and the staffer, who were in close contact with him. On Thursday, Rizzo confirmed that there were at least three positive tests and one other that is likely to end up as a positive.

The original positive test came from a round of testing done on Monday, the last day of spring training for the Nationals. Following that game, the team flew back to Washington. Rizzo said he was alerted to the positive test after 1 a.m. on Wednesday.

Last year, dozens of games were postponed after outbreaks on various teams, resulting in complicated rescheduling plans, with many teams playing multiple doubleheaders across the sport. This year, M.L.B. had wanted to postpone the season a month to allow more time for players and staff members to get vaccinated and for virus infection rates to drop around the country, but were unable to gain approval of the plan from the players’ union.

M.L.B. has offered to relax coronavirus restrictions on teams once 85 percent of players and staff members are fully vaccinated.

— David Waldstein

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