PITTSBURGH – David Stearns, Brewers president of baseball operations, announced Tuesday afternoon that left-footed player Christian Yelich has tested positive for COVID-19 and has been quarantined in Milwaukee for at fewest 10 days.
Stearns said companion player Jace Peterson has also been placed in a seven-day quarantine due to contact tracing in accordance with Major League Baseball protocols. Peterson has not tested positive for COVID-19.
The Brewers charter flight from Milwaukee has been delayed from Monday night until Tuesday morning to allow further contact tracing to ensure no other players are in quarantine. Stearns said he has “every expectation” that his team’s game against the Buccaneers will take place on schedule Tuesday night at PNC Park.
“Christian was completely vaccinated,” Stearns said. “He was vaccinated with the team as a whole at the start of the season. He took precautions and guidelines very seriously throughout the season.
“Unfortunately, yesterday he started to have some mild symptoms. He did the right thing and reported those mild symptoms. We took him a test yesterday afternoon. The test came back positive. Then we got a confirmation test, which also came back positive.
“During all of this, (team medical director) Roger Caplinger and his crew, and our entire medical staff, have done a tremendous job tracing the contacts, and performing the additional tests that were necessary. Out of distinguished caution, while we were going through this, awaiting the test results, we postponed Our team plane from final night to this morning.”
To replace Yelich and Peterson on their roster, the Brewers have recalled defensive player Lorenzo Cain from a lesser league rehab job with Class AAA Nashville and have also recalled companion player Pablo Reyes from that club.
“We went through MLB protocols final night and this morning,” Stearns said. “I’m very confident we’ve met those protocols and are doing everything we can to preserve our squad healthy and safe.
“As with everything in the world right now, we will never be 100% sure, but I think our group took this very seriously from the start and that our medical staff have done an amazing job doing their part in keeping everyone safe.”
Yelich’s positive test was unexpected because he participated in a mass vaccination event on April 5 in conjunction with the Milwaukee Department of Health and participated in a public service announcement issued by the Brewers in which he joined forces with teammates Brent Suter, Keston Hiura and Freddy Peralta with the urging “Let’s crush Covid” Milwaukee!”
“You have policies in place but we also live our lives, so a lot of it feels out of our control,” said Director Craig Konsell. “Anytime, because this virus is so contagious, you’re scared it could infect a lot of people, so having the day off (Monday) was a plus and we were a little lucky there. I don’t think we’re completely out of the woods but I think it’s a sign Good that we had no further concerns about the spread of the virus.
“I think we’ve all hoped we’d gotten through it. I think it’s what we all want to feel, that we’re out of or out of. But, unfortunately, we preserve getting reminders that we’re over the worst of it, but it will preserve coming and it still has to be.” We have to deal with it.
“Just to be clear, this was a Christian who reported symptoms here. I really applaud him in this scenario. He reported symptoms and as a fully vaccinated person, it was significant to do so. That saved us in this situation, or minimizing things in this case.”
“Over the former year and a half, Roger and his staff have put in place an excellent set of rules and regulations that are not forever simple to live by but have tried to stick to, and hopefully that will decrease situations like this.”
Brewers players were given a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a group event in April and they later announced they had reached the 85% vaccination rate approved by the MLB for players and staff that allowed some protocols to be relaxed. But there have been “breakthrough” cases of players who have tested positive for COVID-19 despite being vaccinated, including two divide cases with the New York Yankees.
The Yankees’ first scheduled game following the July 19 All-Star burst against Boston was postponed following three bowlers tested positive despite being vaccinated. Medical officials said people can still contract COVID-19 following vaccination, but in almost all cases it prevents hospitalization and death from the virus.
“I think our medical staff believes that all of these vaccines are very effective in preventing grave illness, hospitalization, and worse outcomes,” Stearns said. “At the end of the day, that’s what vaccines are designed for, so they’re working.”
“Obviously there has been a change in the virus. We have a variant, and that has apparently resulted in some of these advanced cases, and I think everyone is still working on studying it and determining if there is an appropriate course to take.”
As for Yelich, Stearns said: “The news is clearly disappointing for Christian. The most significant thing for him is that he feels better. He has mild symptoms. I spoke to him this morning. He is in pleasing spirits. He is resting and it is definitely our hope.” He can get rid of this quickly and feel better quickly.”
“For Christian, that means at fewest 10 days. Since Christian has shown some symptoms, the time frame will also be sure by resolution of his symptoms, so it will be at fewest 10 days for Christian. For Jess, it will be seven days.”
It has already been a season of struggle for Yelich, both in terms of health and field production. He was sidelined for five weeks in April and May with a lower back problem that lasted much longer than expected and hasn’t been the alike player since his comeback.
In 67 games, Jelich was hitting 0.235 in six home runs and 28 hits in over 275 games. Thanks to the team’s 50 walks, he had a 0.382 on a percentage basis but only a 0.37 slowdown, by far the lowest in his career. With 76 strikes, he has an inhalation rate of 27.6%.
Instead of showing improvement, Willis was at his worst in July. In 19 games, he’s hit .209 (14 for 67) with one home run, five RBI, .329 on percentage basis and .299 hit percentage. He drew 10 walks and hit 20 times.
It was a far sob from Yelich’s first two seasons with the Brewers in 2018-19, when he won the National League Player of the Year award and finished second, respectively, winning his first two franchise titles in the process. NL led with a .598 lag in ’18 and topped the bigs with a .671 in ’19, posting an 80 home run.
Jelich broke his right knee on September 9. 10, 2019, in Miami when he missed the field, and missed the rest of the season. Much of that winter was devoted to physical rehabilitation and was slowly being brought into spring training in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic closed camps around the world.
After a hiatus of more than three months, the teams rushed to a three-week summer camp and played a short 60-game season. Yelich got off to a rough start, going 1 for 27 with 12 hits, and never fully recovered. He hit .205 in 58 games with 12 home runs, 22 RBI and 76 strikes in 200 pitched strokes, and finished with a .786 OPS.
Yelich appears to be back on track during the show season this spring, hitting 0.393 on 28 at bat with two doubles, triples, three home runs, eight RBI and 1,357 OPS. But he left a game in St. Lewis on April 11 with a back problem and hasn’t looked at the board since returning to court for pleasing on May 18.
After an intense pre-match session with batting coach Andy Haines on July 9, Yelich joked that he was “learning how to hit again.” But it was obvious the frustration he was feeling at not being competent to get close to the shape that made him one of the game’s most feared players during his first two years with the Brewers.
“There’s been a lot of stuff, really,” he said. “It’s firm to explain quickly. I’m just trying to figure it out. I know what I want to do. It’s just a matter of being competent to do it. I don’t look alike out there right now. Literally, we start at square one and try to figure out[things].”
Now, for at fewest 10 days, Yelich will not play baseball. Stearns said the main consideration was that the symptoms were mild and that Yellich should recover quickly.
“I don’t think this is his overall favorite year,” Stearns said. “He’s dealt with a lot. When I spoke to him this morning, he wasn’t feeling pleasing, but he was in pleasing spirits. It’s just another challenge he’s going to overcome.
“He’ll get over it. He’ll be back with the team. We’re definitely looking forward to getting him back.”
Devin Williams has been reinstated from IL
The Brewers have returned loyal Devin Williams from their 10-day hit list and left-handed mitigator Angel Perdomo to Nashville. Williams was sidelined by elbow inflammation but spent at fewest 10 days in IL.