ANAHEIM, CALIF. – Instead of playing amid 80-degree afternoon heat before jetting off to Oakland in time for Monday's series opener with the Athletics, the Twins saw hardly much sun at all.
Maybe some muted rays from behind their hotel room windows, just a fraction of a perfect SoCal spring Sunday.
After calling off two of the three games against the Angels, Major League Baseball also postponed Monday's game at the Athletics while the Twins deal with COVID-19 issues. There are four positive cases on the Twins: one staff member and three players.
Shortstop Andrelton Simmons was the first to test positive ahead of the California trip and stayed back in Minnesota. A non-uniformed staff member then tested positive ahead of Friday's game, a 10-3 loss at Angel Stadium, and that sent a handful of other staff into contact-tracing quarantines. Before Saturday's scheduled game, two more players tested positive, including left fielder Kyle Garlick. All have either shown mild symptoms or been asymptomatic.
The Twins could potentially next play at Oakland on Tuesday as part of a straight doubleheader to make up for Monday's postponement. That would begin at 5:30 p.m., though it depends on what continued testing and contract-tracing reveal about the Twins' situation.
Derek Falvey, Twins president of baseball operations, said on WCCO Radio Sunday that the tests done Saturday evening "came back in a good direction." Everyone took two more tests Sunday morning, including a rapid-results one that is prone to false positives. Manager Rocco Baldelli and another staff member experienced false positives just before leaving for California, though further testing eventually cleared them.
The Twins received results Sunday evening that revealed no further positives. Falvey also said the team will test again Monday morning and that those results would affect whether the Twins can fly to Oakland on Monday or whether that series goes on at all.
The team is also testing its non-traveling party in Minnesota as a precaution, because it's unclear exactly when or how the virus infiltrated the clubhouse. A source said Saturday the team did not think Simmons' case caused the following three.
The three players who tested positive likely will have to stay in Anaheim and quarantine for 10 days, unless they're up for a very long drive to Minnesota. The players who tested positive Saturday even had to drive themselves individually back to the team hotel in last-minute rental cars. The staff put into precautionary quarantine Friday should be free to travel Monday, as long as tests remain negative.
Testing has revealed that the current version of COVID-19 making its way through the Twins is one of the variant strains.
"It does create a little bit more uncertainty about the go-forward and how long it takes for someone who may have been infected to turn positive," Falvey said on WCCO. "So there's a lot of things we're working with our medical staff on to determine how comfortable we would be 72 hours out, subsequent to that, another day, another day, another day after that."
Falvey is working on rescheduling the two Angels games, but finding corresponding off days has been a logistical nightmare, as that would likely be necessary with Oakland if the doubleheader doesn't get played. Being on the West Coast has also complicated the Twins' ability to call in reinforcements should more players test positive. They have a five-man taxi squad on the trip (an infielder, outfielder, catcher and two pitchers), but anyone from St. Paul would have to fly commercial four hours to meet the team.
Like the Twins, the A's are not quite to the 85% vaccination threshold that would allow for loosened COVID-19 protocols, manager Bob Melvin said Sunday. Many of the Twins' tier one personnel took the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine April 8 and are not quite to the two weeks of developed immunity from that. It's also still unclear how the vaccines work against the various COVID-19 strains.
"There's not one person in our group who is not frustrated," Baldelli said Saturday. "… We knew that with our vaccine effort going on just after we returned home for our first homestand, we were pretty close to getting where we needed to be. But obviously not close enough. And now we're going to have to deal with whatever comes our way. Things are not going to be easy because of it. We're going to have a great deal of challenges in addition to everything that we've already gone through."
So for now the Twins are left to persevere through the dark times, peering from behind the thin pane of glass separating them from the light.