Coronavirus outbreak forces MLB to postpone baseball games


At least 14 members of the team, including 12 players, have tested positive after playing three games in Philadelphia this weekend. The Yankees’ game at the Phillies was also called off.

The return of Major League Baseball took a troubling turn on Monday when the league’s worst fear became reality: an outbreak of positive coronavirus tests within a team.

The Miami Marlins postponed their home opener against the Baltimore Orioles on Monday — four days after the season opener — after learning that 14 members of the team’s traveling party, including two coaches, had tested positive for the virus. The outbreak was first reported by ESPN.

“The health of our players and staff has been and will continue to be our primary focus as we navigate through these uncharted waters,” Derek Jeter, the Marlins’ chief executive, said in a statement. “After a successful Spring 2.0, we have now experienced challenges once we went on the road and left Miami. Postponing tonight’s home opener was the correct decision to ensure we take a collective pause and try to properly grasp the totality of this situation.”

Jeter said the Marlins would remain in Philadelphia, where they played three games against the Phillies over the weekend, while awaiting the results of another round of testing for players and staff. The Phillies were scheduled to host the Yankees on Monday, but that game was also postponed.

The Marlins played two exhibition games in Atlanta last week before their series at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, including Sunday’s series finale, which was played after Miami learned that four players had tested positive. Manager Don Mattingly changed starting pitchers for that game — replacing Jose Urena, who had reportedly tested positive — but told reporters later that the team “never really considered not playing.”

As games began for most teams on Friday, M.L.B. announced that only six of 10,939 samples it had conducted that week (or .05 percent) had been new positives. But most of those tests had been conducted while teams were training at their home parks, before traveling to road sites.

The league is attempting to stage a 60-game season using 30 stadiums across the United States, including a Class AAA ballpark in Buffalo for the Toronto Blue Jays, who were barred from playing home games by the Canadian government because of the risk of travel to and from the United States.

Baseball’s decision to play games at home sites stands apart from the N.B.A. and the N.H.L., which are preparing to resume play in so-called bubbles. The N.B.A. is housing players and holding games at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Fla., while the N.H.L. is using two sites: Toronto for Eastern Conference teams and Edmonton for teams in the Western Conference.

Those leagues are also using fewer teams than M.L.B.; both were deep into their seasons when sports shut down in mid-March, so the N.H.L. plans to move directly to the playoffs, with 24 of 31 teams taking part, while the N.B.A. plan involves 22 of its 30 teams.