Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto has tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Washington general manager Mike Rizzo told reporters on Thursday afternoon, including The Athletic's Jesse Dougherty. Soto missed Thursday night's season opener against the Yankees at Nationals Park in Washington D.C. and it's unclear when he will be able to return to the field. Soto appeared in the Nationals exhibition game against the Orioles on Tuesday, but no other Nationals had a positive result on Thursday.
Soto, 21, had arrived to summer camp late because he was in quarantine due to coming in contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID-19. Rizzo said Soto is currently asymptomatic.
The Nationals also had two players -- Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross -- opt out of the 2020 season in late June. Soto joins Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, Texas Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo, among others, as players to have tested positive for the coronavirus.
MLB's latest round of coronavirus (COVID-19) testing was promising, showing a new positive COVID-19 rate of 0.05 percent. But, it's unclear how testing results will be affected once the season gets underway and teams begin travel to opponents' ballparks. The issue of fast and reliable COVID-19 testing is one of the biggest off-field questions MLB faces this season.
MLB created a new COVID-19-related Injured List to help navigate the pandemic this season. There is no minimum or maximum stay, and for a player to be eligible to return, he must test negative twice at least 24 hours apart, show no symptoms for 72 hours, and receive approval from team doctors.
The Nationals did not include Soto when they announced their 30-man roster for Opening Day:
The youngster was a star for the Nationals last season where he posted a .282/.401/.548 (138 OPS+) slash line in 150 games. Soto finished tied for the Nationals most home runs (34) with Anthony Rendon, and is the centerpiece of Washington's offense.
Soto finished with the club's fifth-best WAR (4.6), behind Stephen Strasburg, Rendon, Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin, in just his second big-league season. In 2018, Soto finished as the runner-up in NL Rookie of the Year voting and in 2019, he finished ninth in NL MVP voting. During the Nationals' 2019 championship run, Soto paced the Nats offense, hitting .277/.373/.554 in 17 playoff games. In Game 6 of the World Series, Soto delivered a go-ahead homer.
Although coronavirus is considered a respiratory illness, the disease can impact a number of systems and organs. That includes possible effects on the heart and the brain. More than 140,000 Americans have died this year from COVID-19.