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Nationals player tests positive for COVID-19; Opening Day roster to be affected due to contact tracing

An early reminder that the COVID-19 pandemic will remain an issue for baseball in 2021.

New York Mets v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Five members of the Nationals organization, including four players, are in COVID-19 protocol after a player tested positive for the virus on March 29. GM Mike Rizzo made the announcement Wednesday and said that four players in quarantine will be out for Thursday’s Opening Day matchup with the Mets.

While some MLB players have begun to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in recent days, this incident is a reminder that the pandemic will continue to affect Major League Baseball during the 2021 season. It’s actually the second straight season that the Nationals’ Opening Day roster has been affected by a positive COVID test. Last year, the team announced just hours before its season opener against the Yankees that Juan Soto had tested positive for the virus, which caused him to miss the first two weeks of the shortened 60-game season.

One positive development for clubs like the Nationals that are affected by the pandemic is that they’ll be able to temporarily add players to the 40-man roster in the event of COVID-related absences and won’t have to pass them through waivers to remove them from the roster when they’re no longer needed. That wasn’t the case in 2020, when teams like the Marlins and Cardinals were affected by large outbreaks and then had to pass numerous players through waivers once the effects of those outbreaks subsided.