ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A day later, the Yankees weren’t out of the COVID-19 woods yet.
Aaron Boone disclosed before Wednesday night’s game against the Rays that an additional four members of the club’s traveling party — all coaches or support staff — had tested positive to go along with the three members from the same group the club said Tuesday tested positive.
Six of the seven, Boone said Wednesday, were "asymptomatic." All have been fully vaccinated, each getting the single- dose Johnson & Johnson shot.
Gleyber Torres, though not thought to be positive, was being held out of Wednesday night’s game out of "an abundance of caution," Boone said, adding the 24-year-old felt "fine."
Torres was awaiting word from the Joint COVID-19 Health and Safety Committee, comprising one MLB and one MLBPA representative and two physicians, to rule on his status (various tests taken by the shortstop were outstanding late in the afternoon).
Torres, for the moment, appears to be the lone player potentially affected, though when it comes to COVID-19 all situations are fluid.
Third-base coach Phil Nevin, first-base coach Reggie Willits and a third person — an unnamed "support staff member" — tested positive for COVID-19, the club said in separate announcements several hours apart on Tuesday.
The Yankees announced Nevin’s positive test before Tuesday’s 3-1 victory over the Rays and Willits’ and the support staff member’s results after the game.
Before Wednesday night’s game, Boone said pitching coach Matt Blake had tested positive as well as the three other support staff members, bringing the club’s total number of positive cases to seven. All who tested positive remain under quarantine protocol at various locations in nearby Tampa.
Boone said Wednesday contact tracing and additional testing had been ongoing since Monday. Since Tuesday morning, members of the traveling party have been tested at least three times, some more.
"A lot going on," said a weary-sounding Boone, who was tested three times Wednesday morning. "We’re getting all kinds of tests and waiting on committees to weigh and stuff like that. It’s just been a little bit hectic but everyone’s handling it well."
Boone said, as was the case Tuesday, there was no discussion about postponing the game.
For the second straight game, bench coach Carlos Mendoza filled in for Nevin as the third-base coach (while also fulfilling his bench coach duties when the Yankees were in the field). Mario Garza, the Yankees coordinator of baseball development based out of the club’s minor- league complex in Tampa, again served as the fill-in at first for Willits. Bullpen coach Mike Harkey served as pitching coach Tuesday and he was joined by Sam Briend, the club’s director of pitching, Wednesday.
Garza said he has been told by Kevin Reese, the team’s senior director of player development, to prepare as if he’ll travel to Baltimore, where the Yankees continue this three-city, nine-game trip this weekend, but that it’s a "day-to-day" situation.
The Yankees several weeks ago reached the 85% threshold of the club being vaccinated — players, coaches, staff, etc. — meaning the ability to relax some of the COVID-19 protocols implemented by Major League Baseball. Prominent among those are mask wearing and social distancing, something Boone said Tuesday team members would be reevaluating.
"I think in an ideal world, we’d be past this," Jameson Taillon, Thursday’s scheduled starter, said Wednesday afternoon. "I think for a little bit there, we thought we were past it with all the vaccines and just the time we were removed from our vaccine, we’re past the two-week threshold. But if I’ve learned one thing in the past year, year-and-a-half, it’s just you have to be ready to roll with the punches, nothing’s guaranteed anymore. So we’ll mask back up, we’ll keep our distance, we’ll do whatever we have to do to get this season in.
"We were willing to make big adjustments to the year last year, and we’ll do whatever it takes now to keep this thing going."