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Cleveland Guardians place slugger Naylor on COVID-19 list

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Cleveland Guardians first baseman Josh Naylor was added to the team’s COVID-19 injured list on Friday, marking the first player to be sidelined by the team’s recent outbreak.

Cleveland’s game against the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns, and the team was absent on Thursday. Pitching coach Carl Willis was scheduled to lead the team Friday night in Minnesota after manager Terry Francona was among several coaches placed in health and safety protocols.

On Friday, Naylor was the only Guardians player on the COVID-19 list.

“We’ve had dozens of tests over the past few days,” chief executive Chris Antonetti said. “We followed the guidelines of MLB protocols and the recommendations of our medical staff in determining our tests.”

Naylor has been one of the team’s best hitters so far this season, batting .347 with five home runs and 22 RBIs in 20 games.

“He’s been swinging incredibly well this season, so we’re going to miss him,” Guardians right-hander Shane Bieber said of Naylor. “We’ll be looking for a few guys to step in and hopefully fill his shoes and make the most of it.”

Under current guidelines, Naylor will have to be out for 10 days from the day symptoms appear or after receiving two negative tests, per Antonetti. That means members of the Cleveland coaching staff who were sent home this week will not join the Minnesota team.

Francona, who has faced several health issues in recent years, is resting in Cleveland.

“He is hopefully on the road to recovery,” Antonetti said.

Bench Coach DeMarlo Hale, First Base Coach Sandy Alomar, Third Base Coach Mike Sarbaugh, Batting Coach Chris Valaika, Assistant Pitching Coach Joe Torres and Batting Analyst Justin Toole are also absent from the squad due to the outbreak.

In addition to Willis as interim manager, John McDonald will fill in as first base coach while Kyle Hudson will temporarily assume third base coaching duties. Mike Barnett will be Cleveland’s bench coach.

“I told the players, we just want them to play the right way,” Willis said. “We are not going to stand in their way, but we will make the necessary decisions and move on.”

Willis says he’s been in constant contact with Francona, who provided input on Friday’s lineup.

The Twins have also had recent cases of COVID-19, including manager Rocco Baldelli and infielder/outfielder Luis Arraez. Both returned to action on Thursday.

“Unfortunately there has been an increase across the country, and also if you look around Major League Baseball, there have been a number of instances with managers, coaches and players having to go on the COVID IL recently,” Antonetti said. “I think it’s just a sign of what continues to happen and recognition that the virus continues to impact the country, and Major League Baseball is not immune to that. “

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