High-risk pitcher Ste­wart opts out

Davis re­turns to team af­ter COVID-19 scare

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Jon Me­oli

A week in which the Ori­oles haven’t been able to es­cape the im­pact of the COVID-19 virus con­tin­ued in that vein Fri­day when high-risk young pitcher Kohl Ste­wart, who has Type 1 di­a­betes, opted out of the sea­son.

Ste­wart’s de­par­ture washed out some of the re­lief that came when first base­man Chris Davis re­turned to the team af­ter a coron­avirus scare that brought the threat of the virus back into their midst for the first time since the be­gin­ning of sum­mer camp.

Ste­wart, the 25-year-old for­mer top pick of the Min­nesota Twins who was the only pitcher the Ori­oles signed to a free-agent con­tract this off­sea­son, asked to have more con­ver­sa­tions with the team this week, man­ager Bran­don Hyde said. That co­in­cided with the out­break in the Miami Mar­lins club­house that paused the sea­son for them and the Philadel­phia Phillies, plus Davis’ pre­cau­tion­ary ab­sence. And on Fri­day pos­i­tive tests in the St. Louis Car­di­nals club­house forced can­cel­la­tion of their game in Mil­wau­kee.

“I have de­cided to pause my par­tic­i­pa­tion in the 2020 sea­son,” Ste­wart said in a state­ment. “My el­e­vated risk of se­ri­ous com­pli­ca­tions of COVID-19 due to Type 1 di­a­betes con­tin­ues to be of great con­cern. I am grate­ful to the or­ga­ni­za­tion, as well as my coaches and team­mates, for their in­cred­i­ble sup­port.”

“We’ve had a lot of dis­cus­sions the last few days,” Hyde said. “I’m go­ing to keep those con­ver­sa­tions pri­vate. That’s be­tween me and him.

“I just wanted him to know that I’m go­ing to sup­port any de­ci­sion he makes. I know the or­ga­ni­za­tion is also. It’s a per­sonal de­ci­sion, but I was go­ing to be fully sup­port­ive in what­ever he de­cided to do.”

Ste­wart didn’t ap­pear in a game for the Ori­oles this year, though the or­ga­ni­za­tion was in­trigued with the raw tal­ent that made him the No. 4 over­all pick in the 2013 draft by the Twins. They be­lieved work on keep­ing him in the strike zone and al­ter­ations to his pitch mix could help Ste­wart de­liver on his po­ten­tial for their re­build­ing team.

In­stead, he’s re­placed on the ros­ter by right-han­der Thomas Eshel­man, who will fill the depth starter/ long re­lief role Ste­wart seemed to be in.

“It’s about him the per­son right now for me,” Hyde said of Ste­wart. “I’m hop­ing I get to see him pitch some­time down the road, but for right now this is the de­ci­sion that he made.”

The Ori­oles placed Ste­wart on the in­jured list, mean­ing that he will con­tinue to get his salary and ac­crue ser­vice time, a ben­e­fit given to play­ers who de­cide not to play be­cause they are at high risk. His de­ci­sion to leave the team in this tu­mul­tuous week un­der­scores the chal­lenges in stag­ing a sea­son of full travel the way Ma­jor League Base­ball is at­tempt­ing.

There are myr­iad health and safety pro­to­cols in place, and those are only get­ting stricter as the num­ber of teams whose sea­sons have been im­pacted by the virus grows. One of them is a home screen­ing for symp­toms, and Davis wasn’t with the Ori­oles on Wed­nes­day and

Thurs­day be­cause of symp­toms that he now be­lieves were from “a lit­tle si­nus in­fec­tion.”

“Hav­ing to go through ev­ery­thing we’ve had to go through on an ev­ery­day ba­sis with the check­ups, it raised some red flags,” Davis said Fri­day.

Said Hyde: “It just sounds like he was a lit­tle un­der the weather. For pre­cau­tion­ary rea­sons, and the world we’re liv­ing in right now, we wanted to do the re­spon­si­ble thing and make sure that we’re fol­low­ing pro­to­col.”

The pro­to­cols that kept Davis away from the team for two days have been tight­ened, and Davis said he be­lieves this was an in­stance of them work­ing to keep play­ers safe.

“It’s new to every­body, and it’s ob­vi­ously some­thing that we’re kind of hav­ing to take in stride and learn on the go,” Davis said. “I think that we’re do­ing it the right way. I think we’re go­ing about it the right way.

“In my opin­ion, I think it’s bet­ter to be more cau­tious than it is more care­less, es­pe­cially with how quickly this can spread and how close we are together, how much we are together through­out the course of our day. It’s probably bet­ter to be cau­tious.”

Davis spoke Tues­day night af­ter the Ori­oles’ work­out at Cam­den Yards about how ea­ger they were to play the New York Yan­kees the next day, a symp­tom of the Mar­lins’ out­break that caused the sched­ules of sev­eral teams to be shuf­fled. The Ori­oles were by­standers in that, but Davis re­it­er­ated his de­sire to play and take ex­tra safety pre­cau­tions on the field while do­ing so. But the next day he wasn’t around.

Hyde didn’t ad­dress his ab­sence, as is team pol­icy for COVID-19-re­lated ab­sences. Davis re­turned once it was clear that the symp­toms he had didn’t come with pos­i­tive tests for COVID-19.

“I tested neg­a­tive at least eight times just in the past few days,” Davis said. “I didn’t have a fever. My tem­per­a­ture was a lit­tle bit higher than nor­mal, but like I said it was re­ally more of just my si­nuses kind of flared up.

“Usu­ally, I go through this a few times dur­ing the sea­son, es­pe­cially when you start trav­el­ing and go­ing to dif­fer­ent cli­mates. Un­for­tu­nately, I just had to go through the pro­to­col and had to go through the steps to make sure that ev­ery­thing was OK. And I was.

“I did not ever feel at any time like I had any symp­toms, didn’t feel like there was any­thing go­ing on. I felt like the tests were just con­fir­ma­tion of that.”

Around the horn

De­spite re­turn­ing to the team, Davis wasn’t in the lineup Fri­day. He and Hyde said he was avail­able off the bench. … Short­stop José Iglesias was out a sec­ond straight day with quadri­ceps sore­ness, though Hyde said he was im­prov­ing. … Left-han­der Tommy Milone will start Sun­day against the Tampa Bay Rays.

ULYSSES MUÑOZ/THE BALTIMORE SUN

First base­man Chris Davis re­turned to the Ori­oles af­ter deal­ing with a si­nus in­fec­tion.

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