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Second Yankees minor-leaguer tests positive for coronavirus

Yankees pitcher J.A. Happ discussed the coronavirus situation with reporters while leaving the club's training facility in Tampa on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Credit: Newsday / Erik Boland

TAMPA, Fla. — A second Yankees minor leaguer has tested positive for the coronavirus, the team confirmed Tuesday.

The player, who has not been publicly named, is the second in the team’s minor league system to test positive during the COVID-19 pandemic that has shut down the sports world and much of the world in general.

"While under self-quarantine, the player reported fatigue and an elevated body temperature to Yankees medical personnel," the team said in a statement. "The test was administered on Sunday, and the player returned to self-quarantine following the positive results. We can also report that within the past 48 hours his symptoms have dissipated." 

The first positive test came back late last week and, as a result, the Yankees minor league complex was immediately closed Friday afternoon and will remain so until at least March 25. All Yankees minor-leaguers and some player development staff are under self-quarantine until March 25.

“You feel for him and his teammates and the organization,” veteran lefthander J.A. Happ said late Tuesday morning as he left Steinbrenner Field after a workout. “You hope that can be an isolated thing, but you just don’t know. From what I’ve heard, he hasn’t been on this side at all, so maybe it won’t spread here.”

That, of course, remains to be seen.

The first minor-leaguer to test positive, general manager general manager Brian Cashman said Sunday, experienced symptoms Friday morning and did not report to the complex that day. The player and his roommate were quarantined Friday and the Hillsborough County Health Department recommended that the complex be shut down and it was.

“We've had no other corona testing necessary at this time,” Cashman said Sunday. “I think just like anybody in society, is that likely to stick? I would say no, it's not likely to stick.”

And indeed, it did not stick, not a surprise given the large number of players — in the neighborhood of 150 — at the complex during minor league spring training.

“Oh for sure,” one minor leaguer said Tuesday via text, asked if players were “freaking out” a bit after the second positive test. “Being in that same clubhouse every single day. Showering in the same facility, sharing the same baseballs all day, the sweat in the clubhouse . . . so many variables in play.”

Steinbrenner Field, where the big-leaguers train, was a beehive of activity Tuesday morning but it more resembled moving day than anything else.

Yankees on the 40-man roster voted unanimously on Friday to stay in Tampa and continue informal workouts during the crisis but clearly the realities of the situation changed things. Many players arrived at Steinbrenner Field Tuesday morning and departed soon afterward. In the biggest sign not too many players would be remaining locally to work at Steinbrenner Field – their right under guidelines agreed upon between MLB and the Players Association – manager Aaron Boone left in his car mid-morning and told reporters he was driving home to Greenwich, Conn. Among the group of players spotted at Steinbrenner Tuesday were Gerrit Cole, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres, Chad Green, Tyler Wade, Zack Britton, DJ LeMahieu, Masahiro Tanaka, Brett Gardner and Gary Sanchez (Sanchez tested positive for the regular flu last week but has recovered).

The vast majority of them appeared to have collected their things, an indication they would be leaving town.

“I’ve certainly never gone through anything like it, I don’t think many of us have,” said Happ, who lives locally and occasionally will come by Steinbrenner to work out and throw. “Again, it’s starting to just hit home a little more every day it seems like. So we’re just preparing and being as smart as we can and paying attention to the news.”

Outside Steinbrenner Field Tuesday, Cashman declined to comment on the second positive test but said he planned to remain in Tampa.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Cashman said. “The only way I’m leaving is if things are OK. If they’re not OK, I’m not leaving.”

The Hillsborough County Health Department recommended that the complex quickly be shuttered, which it was. The Yankees said on Tuesday that they would will continue to follow all protocols and recommendations established by local and federal public health experts and Major League Baseball.

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