Two more Royals test positive for COVID-19

Lynn Worthy
The Kansas City Star (Tribune News Service)
Kansas City Royals pitcher Brad Keller, along with first baseman Ryan O'Hearn, have tested positive for COVID-19.

The Kansas City Royals announced Tuesday afternoon that starting pitcher Brad Keller and first baseman Ryan O'Hearn have both tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus. That brings to three the number of Royals players who are sidelined by the virus.

Keller, a right-hander, started last year's season opener and was in consideration to start the season opener again this year.

O'Hearn, a left-handed hitting slugger, came into spring training battling for the first base job with right-handed hitting Ryan McBroom. O'Hearn had been perhaps the team's hottest hitter during Cactus League competition in Arizona before the pandemic prompted Major League Baseball to suspend all spring training camps.

All-Star catcher Salvador Perez previously reported that he had tested positive and is not with the team for the start of "spring training 2.0," which began Friday at Kauffman Stadium. Perez is in self-isolation.

The Royals are scheduled to open their season July 24 at Cleveland and play their home opener at Kauffman Stadium on July 31 against the Chicago White Sox.

"The good news is I expect him to pitch effectively in major-league games this year," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said of Keller. "But at this point in time, it's very difficult to predict if he'll be ready for opening day. I just don't know that."

Moore said he didn't think the club would need to add anybody to their spring training player pool, at least not immediately.

"I don't think we'll add anybody at this point," Moore said. "We feel pretty good about the depth of players we have in our pool. We also feel good about the players that are on the IL right now coming back within the next week to 10 days. Obviously, we're hopeful that we don't have any other positives. It's day-to-day."

The Royals placed infielder Matt Reynolds and catcher Meibrys Viloria to the injured list over the weekend and invited catchers Freddy Fermin and Allan de San Miguel to spring training.

Manager Mike Matheny contracted the virus but has since recovered. And Royals first base coach Rusty Kuntz, 65, will serve as an advisor this season instead of being part of the Royals' field staff due to coronavirus concerns.

"Of course I was devastated when I heard the news from (trainer) Nick Kenney that I had two positive tests," Keller said in a statement released by the Royals. "I was sent home yesterday and was hoping the first test was a false positive, but I got the word today that the second test also came back positive and I have to go into isolation.

"I am experiencing minor symptoms that remind me more of an allergy attack. Other than that I feel great and have no other symptoms, including no cough or fever. I'm going to follow the directions from our training staff and hope to be back working out with the club as soon as possible. I would encourage everyone to stay safe."

Last season, Keller, who will turn 27 on July 26, went 7-14 with a 4.19 ERA in 28 starts. He struck out 122 batters and posted a 1.35 WHIP in 165 1/3 innings.

During Cactus League play in Arizona, O'Hearn hit five home runs in 13 games (35 at-bats) and posted a slash line of .343/.395/.857. Eight of his 12 hits this spring were for extra bases.

"Obviously I was shocked when I got the news that my test was positive," O'Hearn said in a statement. "I am asymptomatic and feel fine physically. It's been a really tough summer waiting for the season to start and to have a setback like this, albeit hopefully a brief one, just makes me that much hungrier.

"Though I have to be in quarantine, I plan to continue working out as much as possible and taking direction from our medical team until the time comes that I'm cleared to rejoin my teammates. If this could happen to me, it could happen to anyone, so it really is important for everybody to pay attention to their surroundings and don't assume that you're not vulnerable, because everyone is."

Players must be symptom-free and test negative in consecutive tests before they can return to baseball activities. They likely wouldn't be retested again for 5-7 days.