MLB: Defending champion Nationals lose Juan Soto in opener after COVID-19 positive

Published July 24, 2020, 6:44 PM

by Agence-France-Presse

Juan Soto #22 of the Washington Nationals (Photo by Michael Reaves / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)

Dominican outfielder Juan Soto, who played a crucial role in Washington’s 2019 World Series triumph, has tested positive for COVID-19 and missed the Nationals’ Major League Baseball season opener.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said Soto, who is asymptomatic, will be out indefinitely only hours before the team was to face the New York Yankees in an empty Nationals Park.

The coronavirus pandemic postponed the MLB season start from March and led to a schedule reduced from 162 to 60 games per club through September 27 — all games played in empty home ballparks — with hopes of playing a World Series as usual in late October.

Soto, a 21-year-old star set to begin his third MLB season, batted .282 last year with 34 home runs and 110 runs batted in for the Nationals.

Washington defeated the Houston Astros in a best-of-seven championship final that went the distance, the first in history in which road teams won every contest.

Soto batted .333 with three homers and drove in seven runs against the Astros, leading Washington in homers, runs scored, hits and walks in the World Series.

Under MLB coronavirus protocol, Soto must produce two negative tests more than 24 hours apart before he can rejoin the Nationals, which could keep him out several days depending upon the speed of returned results.