Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora noted Monday that spring training is supposed to prepare teams for whatever the regular season might throw their way.
That said, he’d prefer to not relive the past three days anytime soon.
The Red Sox received very good news Monday when reliever Matt Barnes, who had tested positive for COVID-19, and several others quarantining due to contact tracing were cleared to rejoin the team.
Cora didn’t provide specifics regarding Barnes’ situation, other than to confirm the Red Sox now are positioned to enter Thursday’s regular season opener at full strength.
“(Barnes) got cleared by the committee,” Cora told reporters after Friday’s spring training game against the Atlanta Braves. “I don’t know about the details. I’m just happy that he’s going to be back with us, and it seems like we’re going to be at full strength in a few days.”
Cora learned of Barnes’ positive test Saturday, after which eight other players/coaches — including pitchers Garrett Richards, Matt Andriese and Garrett Whitlock — were identified as close contacts and forced to quarantine. This temporarily threw a wrench into Boston’s Opening Day plans, with major uncertainty surrounding both the bullpen and rotation.
Now, it appears the Red Sox have avoided disaster.
The New York Post’s Joel Sherman reported Monday that Barnes was ruled to have had a non-infectious positive. And The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier added, citing a major league source, that Barnes, who has remained asymptomatic, since has had several COVID-19 tests come back negative.
“Having the whole crew together is beneficial, obviously,” Cora said of the recent developments. “It was very fast the first day (Saturday), in the early part. It seems like it slowed down right away when we got on that bus to go to Bradenton. The guys did a good job staying the course and doing their work. There were no distractions and then we got good news. It’s a testament to the organization just being patient.”
While Monday’s news, by and large, is incredibly positive, Cora wasn’t able to say much regarding Boston’s closer situation — Barnes has been widely considered the frontrunner for the job — or the team’s overall bullpen/rotation construction to start the season. He’s still sorting through the details, albeit with a weight lifted off his shoulders.
“It’s too soon to make decisions, it’s too soon to know where they’re at,” Cora said of the returning players. “I’m just happy they’re gonna be with us. That’s the most important thing.”