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Orioles, Yankees to play improvised two-game series starting Wednesday

The Orioles were going to play the Marlins and the Yankees were going to play the Phillies. Then COVID-19 got in the way.

Baltimore Orioles v. New York Yankees Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

In the original plan for the Orioles season, they would be in the middle of a four-game set with the Marlins, with two in Miami followed by two in Baltimore. This has been thrown severely out of whack by more than half of the Marlins active roster testing positive for COVID-19 since Sunday. The resulting “wait and see” mode appears to have settled on the Orioles now playing the Yankees on Wednesday and Thursday at Camden Yards.

This is not as completely random as it sounds. The Yankees are another team that’s been in limbo without having any direct, immediate concerns about the spread of the virus within the clubhouse. They were set to play the Phillies in the same four-game arrangement as the O’s and Marlins. The Phillies are temporarily out of action until - hopefully - enough time has gone by to determine how affected they were by their exposure to the Marlins over the season’s opening weekend.

With two teams sitting around twiddling their thumbs, one of which was already in Philadelphia, MLB has moved to match them up while they can. It’s kind of a wild improvisation, just rewriting the schedule on the fly, and it’s not immediately clear whether this would replace a later Orioles-Yankees series or if Marlins games will be plugged in later or what.

In its statement, MLB said that the O’s and Yankees playing now would “create more scheduling flexibility later in the season,” with further rescheduling for the week of August 3 coming later in this week.

It seems like MLB is just totally improvising and hoping they can hold it together long enough to power through this situation. If they end up getting to a point where they have to worry about whether to adjust the schedule later on, that is a problem they can deal with later.

If MLB’s protocol for dealing with COVID-19 is workable, then perhaps things will reach that point. It could turn out that the outbreak was preventable if MLB’s assorted rules had been followed. It could also turn out that this kind of situation was inevitable while trying to play a 60-game baseball season all across a country where some locations have worse control over the spread of the virus than others, and in any case nowhere has completely stamped it out.

In MLB’s release announcing the rescheduled games, it highlighted that of more than 6,000 tests performed among the other 29 teams since Friday, there have been no new positive tests.

That’s a good first step for keeping the season going, although if the Phillies are affected in another few days, there will be another wave of chaos. Note that MLB’s phrasing does allow them to ignore players who had a test taken before Opening Day but had a positive result revealed later, as well as any repeat positives from players already on the shelf.

For now, it’s better for the Orioles to play somebody than to sit around with nothing to do after having gotten their season started. They still got an unexpected two-day vacation but they can gear up to get back to playing the Yankees tomorrow, the Rays on Friday, and then whoever MLB tells them to play beyond that.

The originally scheduled first series against the Yankees was scheduled for August 3-5. Maybe they will just play the Yankees again. Maybe they will play a regrouped Marlins squad. Maybe another team will pop 10 positive tests between now and then and this whole experiment will abruptly end.