The Twins' first in-season COVID infection of the pandemic was diagnosed late Tuesday night, but the team has apparently avoided the sort of season-disrupting outbreak that has caused dozens of games to be postponed or canceled over the past year.
Andrelton Simmons tested positive for the virus, the Twins announced before they were swept in Wednesday's doubleheader against Boston at Target Field, and the shortstop was placed on the COVID-19 injury list and ordered to quarantine for at least 10 days. The source of the infection was not disclosed, and Simmons is experiencing only minor symptoms, according to Derek Falvey, the Twins president of baseball operations.
The Twins immediately undertook contact tracing and additional tests for players and staff, and found no other infections. "At this point, we've cleared everyone that's in the environment," Falvey said. "We're in an OK spot right now."
That wasn't certain when the Twins were notified the night before that a player had tested positive. Four members of the Nationals tested positive just before Opening Day, scrapping their series with the Mets, and the Cardinals and Marlins experienced lengthy disruptions last year after numerous infections.
So the Twins acted quickly, Falvey said, identifying players and staff members who required "extra scrutiny" due to their proximity to Simmons in the previous couple of days, then isolating them while administering additional tests, which were all negative.
"We have been planning for this, almost practicing in some ways. 'If X Y and Z happens, how can we navigate it?' " Falvey said. "So kudos to a lot of our group who did a really nice job this morning, navigating that as quickly as possible, especially in light of a day game, where everyone was on their way in to the ballpark. It's a challenge to work through that."
That Simmons is the player affected adds a tinge of irony to the situation, too, since he preemptively announced, via a Twitter post in March, that he would "not be taking or advocating for" a COVID-19 vaccine. Simmons confirmed Sunday that he had not joined his teammates last week when most of them received the Johnson & Johnson injection.
The Twins did not reach the 85 % vaccination rate required of players and staff members before MLB will allow some precautions and restrictions to be loosened, but Falvey expressed hope that the team's close call this week might convince some holdouts to reconsider.
"We want to continue to educate people … [remind] people of why we think it's a good idea to get vaccinated. Our docs have recommended that, and so we continue to provide them as resources to players, to learn as much as they can about this," Falvey said.
•Simmons' roster spot was filled by utility infielder J.T. Riddle, who was recalled from the alternate site in St. Paul. Since the COVID list doesn't count against the 40-man roster, Riddle was added without removing another player.
•The Twins also summoned outfielder Alex Kirilloff from the alternate site to serve as the team's 27th man, as allowed for doubleheaders. The rookie, appearing in his first regular-season game after debuting during the wild-card playoff round last September, started in left field in Game 1 and went 0-for-2.
• While trainers watched, Josh Donaldson tested his right hamstring between games and pronounced himself healed. Donaldson was activated for Game 2, with lefthander Brandon Waddell, who pitched the final two innings of Game 1, returned to St. Paul. Donaldson had a single and walk in Game 2.
• Nelson Cruz, sent home after feeling ill before Tuesday's game, returned Wednesday and played both games. "He's a little raspy," manager Rocco Baldelli said, though the team ruled out COVID as the cause. "Is he 100%? No. He's a little under the weather, but said he's good to go." Cruz extended his hitting streak to nine games as well.
• Center fielder Byron Buxton did not play in either game because of a hamstring injury. Baldelli said the plan was for Buxton to start Game 2, but he was held out as a precaution.
• The Twins' five-game losing streak is their longest since they lost six in a row Aug. 25-31 last year. It's their longest losing streak at Target Field since June, 2017.
• After going 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position Wednesday, the Twins are 8-for-54 on the seven-game homestand, which ends at noon Thursday against Boston.