Guardians: No new COVID cases; Twin series on

The Cleveland Guardians reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, a day after an outbreak inside their clubhouse prompted a postponement in Chicago and sent manager Terry Francona and five coaches home after a road trip.

The team said pitching coach Carl Willis will serve as the club’s interim manager for a three-game series this weekend at Minnesota. Willis pitched for the Twins from 1991 to 1995.

Cleveland was absent on Thursday.

Guardians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said in a statement that the team will continue to test personnel and conduct contact tracing.

Antonetti said Willis “will be supported by others throughout the organization until members of our coaching staff are able to join the team.”

At this stage, no player has tested positive for the virus.

Francona learned he tested positive Wednesday about two hours before the scheduled first pitch. Shortly after, Major League Baseball canceled the Guardians’ series finale against the White Sox — the first postponement in the majors due to coronavirus concerns in 2022 — so more testing could be done.

Francona, 63, who has faced major health issues for the past two seasons, returned by bus to Cleveland on Thursday with coaches and members of the team’s travel party who also tested positive.

The team said Francona was placed in health and safety protocols with bench coach DeMarlo Hale, first base coach Sandy Alomar, third base coach Mike Sarbaugh, batting coach Chris Valaika, assistant pitching coach Joe Torres and hitting analyst Justin Toole.

Hale filled in when Francona retired last July, and Alomar served as the team’s interim manager for most of the 2020 season.

The Guardians are expected to bring in minor league coaches and instructors to supplement the major league staff in the interim.

The team said an additional update will be provided Friday before the team’s clubhouse opens in Minneapolis.

Wednesday’s postponement — the game will be composed in a split doubleheader on July 23 — has raised questions about whether teams should revert to some of the stricter protocols MLB put in place in 2020.

The Guardians, who had a smaller outbreak earlier this season, had discussed the mask policy on Wednesday before Francona’s positive test prompted the team to conduct more testing and contact tracing.

After playing three games against the Twins, the Guardians will sit out May 23 before hosting the Cincinnati Reds for two.

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