Guardians have no new COVID-19 cases, coach Willis to manage
The Cleveland Guardians reported no new COVID-19 cases Thursday, a day after an outbreak inside their clubhouse caused a postponement in Chicago and sent manager Terry Francona and five coaches home from a road trip.
The team said pitching coach Carl Willis will serve as the club’s acting manager for a three-game series this weekend in Minnesota. Willis pitched for the Twins from 1991-95.
Cleveland was off on Thursday.
Guardians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said in a statement that the team will continue to test personnel and conduct contact tracing.
Antonetti said Willis “will be supported by other individuals throughout the organization until the members of our coaching staff are able to rejoin the team.”
To this point, no players have tested positive with the virus.
Francona learned he was positive on Wednesday about two hours before the scheduled first pitch. Soon after, Major League Baseball scrapped the Guardians’ series finale against the White Sox — the first postponement in the majors by coronavirus-related issues in 2022 — so more testing could be done.
The 63-year-old Francona, who has dealt with major health issues the past two seasons, bussed back to Cleveland on Thursday with coaches and members of the team’s traveling party who also tested positive.
The team said Francona has been placed in health and safety protocols along with bench coach DeMarlo Hale, first-base coach Sandy Alomar, third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh, hitting coach Chris Valaika, assistant pitching coach Joe Torres and hitting analyst Justin Toole.
Hale filled in when Francona stepped away last July, and Alomar served as the team’s acting manager for most of the 2020 season.
The Guardians are expected to bring up some minor league coaches and instructors to fill out the major league staff in the interim.
The team said an additional update will be provided on Friday before the team’s clubhouse opens in Minneapolis.
Wednesday’s postponement — the game will be made up as part of a split doubleheader on July 23 — raised questions about whether teams should return to some of the stricter protocols MLB put in place in 2020.
The Guardians, who had a smaller outbreak earlier this season, had discussed the mask policy on Wednesday before Francona’s positive test triggered the team to conduct more testing and contact tracing.
After playing three games against the Twins, the Guardians will be off on May 23 before hosting the Cincinnati Reds for two.