Cleveland Guardians Slugger player Josh Naylor put on COVID-19 list amid outbreak

MINNEAPOLIS — Cleveland Guardians first team captain Josh Naylor was added to the team’s COVID-19 list Friday, becoming the first player to be sidelined due to the team’s latest outbreak.

Wednesday’s Cleveland White Sox game was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns, and the team was out on Thursday. Head coach Karl Willis was scheduled to run the team Friday night in Minnesota after manager Terry Francona was among several coaches put into health and safety protocols.

As of Friday, Naylor is the only Guardians player on the COVID-19 roster.

“We’ve run dozens of tests over the past few days,” said general manager Chris Antonetti. “We have been following the guidelines of both MLB protocols and recommendations from our medical staff to select our tests.”

Naylor has been one of the team’s top hitters so far this season, hitting .347 with five ball hitters and 22 RBI in 20 games.

“He’s been rocking very well since the start of the season, so we’ll miss him,” Guardians right-hand assistant Shane Bieber said of Naylor. “We’ll be looking for a few guys to step in and hopefully fill his shoes and get the most out of him.”

Under current guidelines, Naylor will need to be discharged for either 10 days from the start of symptoms or until receiving two negative tests, Antonetti said. This means that members of the Cleveland coaching staff who were sent home this week will not be joining the team in Minnesota.

Francona, who has dealt with several health issues in recent years, is resting in Cleveland.

“Hopefully he’s on the road to recovery,” Antonetti said.

Substitute coach DeMarlo Hill, first base coach Sandy Omar, third base coach Mike Sarbo, coach Chris Valica, assistant pitching coach Joe Torres and hitting analyst Justin Toll are also away from the team due to the outbreak.

In addition to Willis as acting manager, John MacDonald will serve as first base coach while Kyle Hudson will temporarily take over coaching duties at third base. Mike Barnett will serve as the Cleveland coach on the bench.

“I told the players, ‘We just want them to play the right way,'” Willis said. “We will not get in their way, but we will make the decisions as we should and we will move forward.”

Willis says he has been in frequent contact with Francona, who provided input on the squad on Friday.

The twins have also seen recent COVID-19 cases, including manager Rocco Baldelli and player/defense player Luis Arraez. Both returned to work on Thursday.

“Unfortunately, there has been a boom across the country, and also if you look around Major League Baseball, there have been a number of cases with coaches, coaches and players who have had to go to COVID IL recently,” Anthonytti said. “I think this is just a sign of what’s going on and recognition that the virus continues to affect the country, and Major League Baseball is not immune to that.”