Red Sox players open up about COVID outbreak: 'I didn't want to be around anybody'

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Twelve positive COVID tests in 16 days. The Red Sox are just getting over one of the biggest COVID outbreaks in baseball this year, which forced them to play without their All-Star shortstop, closer, lead-off hitter and multiple starting pitchers, including ace Chris Sale, during the most crucial stretch of their season.

Now the players are opening up.

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Alex Speier of the Globe wrote an excellent tick-tock of the situation, tracing the outbreak from Kike Hernandez’s positive test on Aug. 27 all the way through the conclusion of the team’s latest road trip in Seattle. As a vaccinated player, Hernandez doesn’t have to be tested unless he experiences symptoms or comes into close contact with someone who has COVID. He first felt fatigued on Aug. 26, but didn’t get tested until the following day, when his body started to ache.

The Red Sox were already in Cleveland for a road trip.

“I guess you can call me Patient Zero on the team,” Hernández said. “Whether I was the first one or not, I was the first one that actually tested positive.”

Speier also clarifies the controversy over whether MLB told the Red Sox to stop testing players, as Hunter Renfroe alleged last week on WEEI. While MLB protocols require only vaccinated and close contacts be tested, the Red Sox decided to start testing everyone daily in their traveling party on Aug. 31. From Aug. 26 through Aug. 30, the league had conducted 2,433 tests on behalf of the Red Sox, Speier reports.

Players kept testing positive and getting pulled from the lineup. The club reverted back to practices it employed in 2020, including holding meetings in the stands and mandating players leave the park when they’re done playing.

“I just didn’t even want to be around anybody,” said Adam Ottavino.

The veteran reliever also insinuated he was frustrated some of his teammates still aren’t vaccinated. The Red Sox are one of six teams in MLB under the 85% vaccination threshold.

“I got pretty annoyed with that fact — not necessarily individually to the point of having a problem with anybody. I love all my teammates. But I just felt like that’s a certain part of the protocol that, like, maybe guys didn’t take seriously enough in their decision-making process [about whether to vaccinate],” he added.

The story ends on a somewhat optimistic note, at least from a baseball standpoint. The Red Sox survived with a 10-9 record over the grueling 20-day stretch, and remain in control of a wild card spot with 14 games to go. Sale returns to the mound Friday night.

May that be the first sign of normalcy returning.