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Twins right fielder Max Kepler sidelined by the coronavirus

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Minnesota Twins right fielder Max Kepler is among the club’s positive cases for the coronavirus.

Manager Rocco Baldelli announced Kepler’s absence with COVID-19 ahead of a doubleheader Tuesday against the Athletics. The scheduled opener of the series Monday was postponed, as were the Twins’ final two games against the Angels in Anaheim over the weekend, because of the outbreak on the team.

Left-hander Caleb Thielbar is also in quarantine because of contact tracing. Baldelli said Thielbar spent a significant amount of time around one of the positive players, but he expects the reliever may not miss as much time and “his specifics are a little bit different than the other guys.”

Everyone who has tested positive is experiencing only mild symptoms, according to Baldelli.

“All of them are quarantined in Anaheim at the hotel still and we’ll be keeping close contact with them and giving them everything they need,” Baldelli said.

The Twins have had at least four positive coronavirus tests in the past week. Kyle Garlick, another unnamed Twins player — presumably Kepler — and a team staff member tested positive in the two days before the postponements against the Angels, Baldelli had said. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons already hadn’t made the trip to Anaheim after testing positive early in the week.

Minnesota, which also spent pregame time Tuesday closely monitoring the Derek Chauvin verdict back home in the case of George Floyd’s killing last year, was eager to get back to playing baseball.

“We want to get out there and be safe and we want to get out there and play baseball,” Baldelli said.

Baldelli called this “one of the most emotional periods of time that I’ve spent in the game, and I mean that in a pretty broad-spanning way.”

During this trying stretch, the Twins also dealt with the death of bench coach Mike Bell last month.

“We’ve had some things going on, obviously all the COVID-related things going on, we’re right in the middle of our season, we’re traveling across the country,” Baldelli said. “All of those things. But frankly, you can brush some of those things aside and just say we’re going to be watching and we’re going to be paying attention and thinking about the community back home and everything that’s been going on, not just recently, but over the last year.

“We’ll be dialed in. And I think I can say that our group cares about what’s going on and will be observers at this point and trying to see what comes next and maybe how it affects us or how we can affect it.”

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