Red Sox avoid COVID scare as Matt Barnes sees false positive
Today saw a bit of good news for the Red Sox as Opening Day is mere days away. As the team was dealing with a possible COVID crisis over the weekend that story saw its final chapter today as all involved had been cleared to return to the team. Matt Barnes had initially tested positive on Friday and the organization instantly began contact tracing protocols to ensure everyone’s safety.
After today’s win against the Braves, Boston manager Alex Cora spoke to the media and made it known that Barnes had been cleared and he, as well as the eight others in the protocol, would be returning to the team right away. Alex Speier of The Boston Globe reported that Barnes had passed several COVID tests since his initial positive outcome and remained asymptomatic which is why the MLB-MLBPA COVID Committee passed him to return to the team.
"“He got cleared by the committee,” Cora said. “I don’t know about the details. I’m just happy he’s going to be back with us and we’re going to be at full strength in a few days.”"
Getting this put behind them with a few days left until Opening Day is the best thing that the Red Sox could’ve hoped for. If things hadn’t gone this way then Cora would’ve needed to do some serious shuffling with his bullpen as the regular season kicked off. Now that he can avoid that headache he can focus on going into the 2021 season with his arsenal fully stocked and ready to take on the AL East.
During spring training Cora has made it pretty clear that he was keeping an eye on both Barnes and Adam Ottavino to fill the vacant closer role. Despite both being absolutely lights-out during the pre-season it seems as if AC is leaning towards Barnesy for the spot as he has more experience in that position. Otto has been a solid set-up man in recent years and has more than likely locked in that spot in the pitching staff for 2021.
Boston’s fireballing righty has had to miss a few days of work while in quarantine but that could honestly be for the best. Getting a little extra rest before the start of the regular season may be a blessing in disguise for a guy who regularly touches the upper 90’s. Luckily, there’s still some time on the spring training calendar that could allow him to get at least one more outing in before things get serious and the games start counting.
"“Having the whole crew together is beneficial, obviously,” Cora said. “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.”"
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This is going to be a big season for Barnes as he’ll be hitting free agency next winter and needs to put up the best numbers he can. He’s always shown flashes of dominance with his curveball/fastball one-two punch but there have also been times where he’s crumbled in front of our eyes. If he can put together a great campaign as the new Red Sox closer then he could command a nice deal in free agency either with Boston or elsewhere.
The righty has spoken in the past about wanting to continue his career with the organization and a good year as the team’s closer could work to solidify his position within the ranks. Boston hasn’t had a closer since Craig Kimbrel left via free agency after the 2018 season and Matty Backpacks could be the next to fill that void long-term. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a report mid-season that he and the Red Sox had agreed to an extension that sees him stay in Boston for the foreseeable future.
Things were looking a bit bleak over the weekend and with Opening Day right around the corner a COVID outbreak is the last thing the team needs. The Red Sox were quick to act on the initial positive test from Barnes and get anyone and everyone that may have been affected separated from the rest of the team right away. Between those quick reactions and the due diligence of those involved, a crisis was averted. Now Boston has their squad at full strength and ready to rock for 2021.