The Red Sox don’t necessarily have a COVID-19 outbreak yet, but their catching depth will be tested this week.
A day after Kevin Plawecki tested positive for COVID, Christian Vázquez and Jonathan Araúz both tested positive and joined him on the COVID-19 related injured list Tuesday, forcing the Red Sox to activate minor league catchers Connor Wong and Ronaldo Hernandez in an urgent manner.
Wong started Tuesday catching Nathan Eovaldi in the Red Sox’ series opener against the Blue Jays, and will start again Wednesday. Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Plawecki and Vázquez – who are both fully vaccinated – were already testing again on Tuesday, with the hopes that their stay out won’t be long.
“This is the world we live in, and we’ll adjust accordingly,” Cora said. “We did it last year.”
According to an industry source, the baseline for any player being out following a positive test is 10 days. But any player, regardless of vaccination status, can return before 10 days if they test negative twice on PCR tests. A clearance from the joint committee – which is made up of MLB and MLBPA reps and medical experts, is also required before a player’s return.
Rich Hill, whose father died on Friday, was put on the bereavement list to make room for Hernandez’s spot on the active roster. Hill’s next scheduled start is Saturday at the Rays, which Cora is hopeful he’ll make.
Cora said the Red Sox will likely make some minor adjustments to prevent further spread of COVID, and continue to protect each other as best they can. He said he’s been staying in a hotel for the last week because one of his kids tested positive.
“We’re trying. We’re trying, but this is the world we live in,” Cora said. “It’s something that’s a lot different than ’20, a lot different than last year. Last night, we saw it, as far as masking on the plane and all that, it’s the world we live in. For example, I’ve been in a hotel for seven days, I haven’t been home, because one of the kids tested positive. It is what it is. …
“We’ll do our best to protect everybody, to protect our families, which is the most important thing. And as a group, yeah, we made some adjustments. Maybe on the road instead of three buses, we’ll get back to five buses, stuff like that, to separate the group. But it’s back to almost normal. It’s what we do as an individual to take care of not only you, but your family, the group, and the organization. ..
“We’re not the only team going through this. The A’s have six already and they showed up yesterday and played well. It’s not the first time, and it’s not going to be the last time, either. Hopefully I’m wrong. This is going to happen throughout the season to a lot of teams. It’s what you can do that day. We’re really good at staying in the moment.”
Wong to the rescue
Vázquez and Plawecki both being out is obviously not ideal, but the Red Sox are very comfortable with Wong behind the dish. Last season, he made three starts catching Eovaldi. They produced a 2.66 ERA, 21 strikeouts and just one walk as a battery.
“Something about him, he’s very calm,” Cora said of Wong. “He doesn’t panic out there. His swing plays. He has some pop. Last year was a tough one because he was on the taxi squad, got hurt, didn’t get too many at-bats. But he’s a guy that we trust, a guy that the organization recognized a few years ago as part of Mookie’s (Betts) trade. Last year he did an amazing job the handful of games he played for us. He’s a guy we trust.”