Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner tested positive for COVID-19 and was pulled from the team’s World Series-clinching 3-1 win in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night in Arlington, Texas.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred confirmed the positive test after the game, telling Fox: “It’s a bittersweet night for us.”
Turner was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts before coming out of the game to start the eighth inning. The team did not give a reason for his exit when he left.
“Thanks to everyone reaching out!” Turner wrote on Twitter after the game. “I feel great, no symptoms at all. Just experienced every emotion you can possibly imagine. Can’t believe I couldn’t be out there to celebrate with my guys! So proud of this team & unbelievably happy for the City of LA #WorldSeriesChamps.”
Major League Baseball insulated postseason teams in neutral-site bubbles after traveling them across the country during a shortened 60-game season. Turner was the first player since the playoffs began to be flagged for the coronavirus.
The veteran infielder was not immediately with his teammates as they celebrated the franchise’s first World Series title since 1988. But the 35-year-old did return to the field with his wife about an hour after the game and took photos with the World Series trophy. He got a hug from longtime teammate Clayton Kershaw and sat front and center next to manager Dave Roberts for a team photo, occasionally lowering a mask he otherwise wore throughout the celebration.
Sources told ESPN’s Jeff Passan that in the second inning, the lab doing COVID-19 tests informed Major League Baseball that Turner’s test from Monday came back inconclusive. Samples taken from Tuesday then arrived and were run, sources said, and they showed up positive. The league then immediately called the Dodgers and said to pull Turner.
He was replaced in the field by Edwin Rios.
“We learned during the game Justin tested positive, and he was immediately isolated to prevent spread,” Manfred said.
Mookie Betts, when asked about Turner returning to the field to join the Dodgers for a team picture, defended his teammate.
“He’s part of the team,” Betts said. “Forget all that, he’s part of the team. We’re not excluding him from anything.”
When the Dodgers return to their hotel later Tuesday night, everybody will be given a rapid PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, sources told Passan.
Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations, said he hadn’t seen the photo of Turner sitting next to a maskless Roberts and the rest of the Dodgers for a team picture.
“If there’s people around him without a mask that’s not good optics at all,” Friedman said, adding that the upcoming PCR tests the team will take will be very important.
“Now it’s important we all test negative … to make sure we don’t go out and spread this to other people,” Friedman said.
A late-blooming slugger who helped reshape the game by succeeding with an uppercut swing, Turner is L.A.’s career leader with 12 postseason home runs, including a pair in this Series, in which he hit .364 and also played stellar defense.
“It’s gut-wrenching,” World Series MVP Corey Seager said. “If I could switch places with him right now, I would. That’s just not right.”
Said Kershaw: “I’m sure it’s really hard tonight, and we all feel for him, but I hope he can take solace in the fact that we’re not here without him. He’s been our guy for a long time. He’s done so many incredible things for this organization. He’s been the rock in the postseason for us every single year.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.