Cleveland Guardians have no new cases of COVID-19; managing pitching coach Carl Willis

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

The team said pitching coach Carl Willis will serve as the club’s acting manager for a series of three games this weekend in Minnesota. Willis pitched for the Twins from 1991 to ’95.

Cleveland was off Thursday.

Chris Antonetti, Guardians president of baseball operations, said in a statement the team will continue to test personnel and trace contacts.

Antonetti said Willis “will be supported by other individuals across the organization until members of our coaching staff can rejoin the team.”

So far, no players have tested positive for the virus.

Francona heard about two hours before the scheduled first ball on Wednesday that he was positive. Shortly after, Major League Baseball canceled the Guardians series final against the White Sox — the first postponement in the majors due to coronavirus-related issues in 2022 — so that more testing could be done.

Francona, 63, who has struggled with major health issues over the past two seasons, returned to Cleveland on Thursday with coaches and members of the team’s tour group who also tested positive.

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

Hale came in when Francona stepped down last July, and Alomar was the team’s acting manager for most of the 2020 season.

In the meantime, the Guardians are expected to provide a number of minor league coaches and instructors to fill out the major league staff.

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 made up as part of a split doubleheader on July 23 — 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 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 are off on May 23 before taking on the Cincinnati Reds for two.

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