Cleared to play, Mets have a busy week ahead

By Tyler Kepner

The New York Mets returned to work Monday, practicing at Citi Field and preparing for a busy stretch of games after four postponements in a row. A player and a staff member tested positive last week for the coronavirus, but the team said Monday that no other staff members or players had tested positive since then.

General manager Brodie Van Wagenen said the two people who tested positive had remained in Miami, where the team played the Marlins last week.

“Both ultimately did become symptomatic, but their symptoms have for the most part resolved, and the peak of their challenges existed more in a 36-hour period of time,” Van Wagenen said Monday. “We’re feeling much more comfortable about their safety.”

The Mets have not identified the player and the staff member who tested positive. Four others who stayed behind, because they had been in close contact with the infected people, have been cleared to return to New York.

The positive tests forced a postponement in Miami last Thursday, and that game will be made up as part of a doubleheader at Citi Field on Tuesday. The Mets had been scheduled to host the New York Yankees for three games last weekend, and those games will be made up as parts of doubleheaders in the Bronx on Friday and Sunday and as a single game in Flushing on Sept. 3.

Van Wagenen said the team had been unable to trace the source of the positive tests, but he seemed confident that the Mets had contained the spread of the virus. The Miami Marlins (20 positive tests) and the St. Louis Cardinals (18) had wider outbreaks and missed more games.

“I think what we’re all learning is that this virus continues to have a lot more questions for us than answers,” Van Wagenen said. “We do feel comfortable that the spread has not come from player to player or coach to coach. At this point, our best guess is that it came from some outside spot, but that is simply that — it’s a guess. We just don’t know, and we may never know.”

He added: “I know that our players take it seriously, and we have a high degree of confidence that this exposure that we received is not as a result of anyone misbehaving or failing to be responsible with their own safety.”

However the positive tests came about, the Mets (12-14) must now play 34 games in the season’s final 34 days to reach the full 60. Tuesday’s twin bill will be the Mets’ first under the 2020 rule in which doubleheader games last only seven innings. With nine games to play in the next six days, the Mets are glad to have fewer innings to fill.

“It seemed to make sense,” Van Wagenen said. “Now, as we look at it from a personal standpoint, I think it’s a necessity, trying to cover so many games in so few days.”

The Mets’ rotation has been unsteady, with two former All-Stars who will not pitch this season (Noah Syndergaard, who had Tommy John surgery, and Marcus Stroman, who opted out) and two others, David Peterson and Michael Wacha, out with shoulder injuries. Another starter, Steven Matz, is 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA and a .313 opponents’ average.

Reliever Robert Gsellman has joined the rotation, and closer Seth Lugo was scheduled to do so last week. Van Wagenen would not commit to using Matz as a starter but said the Mets would still count on him and others in various roles.

“We have to be creative at this point,” he said. “Call it openers, call it bulk-inning pitchers — I have a feeling that we’re probably going to be going through a number of different scenarios, not only this week with the number of games that we have, but also as we head toward the rest of the regular season, because we have to treat each game as much of a must-win game as possible.”

Van Wagenen said that while he had started exploring trade possibilities before Monday’s deadline, “we don’t have anything on the horizon at this point.” He added that the types of players the Mets need — starters like Peterson and Wacha and an outfielder like Jake Marisnick, who has a hamstring strain — could soon be activated from the injured list.

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