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Two players test positive for COVID-19 in Japan baseball league, showing what MLB is dealing with

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball is watching as other leagues around the world try to edge their way back into normalcy before the pandemic has been fully snuffed out.

The Korea Baseball Organization has been largely successful in staging games without players being affected, though a recent outbreak in South Korea has led to postponed plans for allowing fans into games. The Yomiuri Giants, of Nippon Professional Baseball, may be showing the pitfalls of rushing a return.

According to reports out of Japan, two Giants players have tested positive for COVID-19, prompting a preseason game with the Seibu Lions to be canceled. The league has been expected to start regular-season play June 19 without fans in attendance.

The reported two players — infielder Hayato Sakamoto and catcher Takumi Ohshiro — played in a practice game earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Major League Baseball and the Players Association are arguing about the financials of returning to play, with the two parties much closer to agreement on the health protocols that would need to be instituted. The union, which wants to play as many games as possible to maximize prorated contracts, last proposed a season that would go past Thanksgiving, as the country fears a second wind of the coronavirus in the late fall.

While the economics have taken center stage, the ongoing threat of a deadly virus would always be there if Major League Baseball returns. There is now a concerning flare-up in a league with 12 teams that carefully plotted its return. How would MLB steer clear of positive tests as it hopes 30 teams, with perhaps 50 on each roster/taxi squad, stay healthy? That’s 1,500 players — besides all other personnel — to have their fingers crossed. While the league has said a player’s positive test would not halt play, what would happen if much of one team were infected?

The Yomiuri Giants — whose outfield will be patrolled by Gerardo Parra — hope they won’t find out.


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