Miami Marlins

Marlins-Pirates Puerto Rico series in jeopardy because of Zika fears

Residents are blanketed in a cloud of permethrin as a team from the Puerto Rico department of health sprays the insecticide the neighborhood of Cupey, in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Residents are blanketed in a cloud of permethrin as a team from the Puerto Rico department of health sprays the insecticide the neighborhood of Cupey, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Washington Post

The Marlins’ trip to Puerto Rico at the end of the month to play the Pittsburgh Pirates is in jeopardy because of growing concerns over the Zika virus. One baseball source with knowledge of the situation said the two games — on May 30 and 31 — are unlikely to be played in Puerto Rico and will be moved to Marlins Park.

“I think by the end of the week, Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association should come out with a decision either way,” said starting pitcher Tom Koehler, the Marlins’ player representative.

Koehler said that players received “shocking” information about the situation in Puerto Rico when they met Friday in Milwaukee with officials for the Centers for Disease Control, the league and player’s union. Players on the Pirates had a similar informational meeting Saturday.

“When we had the meeting, there were some facts and things that were kind of shocking to both sides, that maybe we didn’t know going into the meeting,” Koehler said. “It does maybe alter the decision a little bit.”

The virus is spread through the bites of infected mosquitoes and can cause birth defects, and even death.

Koehler said Marlins players have voted on whether or not to make the trip, but would not say what the result of that vote was. But the baseball source, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, said players on the Marlins and Pirates voted unanimously not to make the Puerto Rico trip, and are waiting for the commissioner’s office to make a decision.

“Right now, there’s still action that needs to be taken on both sides,” Koehler said. “We can’t make the decision ourselves.”

Asked about the level of concern inside the Marlins clubhouse, Koehler replied: “I think I made that point pretty clear.”

Koehler said that if the Marlins and Pirates make the trip to Puerto Rico as scheduled, they have been instructed on what precautions to take.

For example, Koehler said players have been advised to remain in their hotels during the two-day trip, wear long-sleeved clothing, and spray skin areas that are left exposed.

“There was no detail or stone left unturned,” Koehler said of Friday’s meeting with the CDC official. “There are a lot of precautions that would need to be taken. There was a recommendation to stay in the hotel room and kind of go from the hotel to the field on the bus. They told people if they had a pregnant spouse, that that spouse should not go on the trip. There was a level of concern for family members.”

Since the Marlins are the home team for the two games, they would likely be moved to Marlins Park if the Puerto Rico trip is canceled.

WHO’S UP FIRST?

Catcher J.T. Realmuto was atop the lineup in the leadoff spot for the first time in his career Tuesday as the Marlins continued to deal with the aftermath of the Dee Gordon suspension.

Realmuto became the third leadoff hitter used by manager Don Mattingly since Gordon was suspended 80 games Thursday for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs.

“With Dee being gone, I really don’t have an alternative for that spot with this group of guys,” said Mattingly, who has also used Ichiro Suzuki and Derek Dietrich in the leadoff position.

While it’s unusual for a catcher to hit leadoff, Realmuto is not a traditional catcher. A converted infielder, Realmuto runs well for a catcher. He also brought a .312 average into Tuesday’s game.

“I feel like he fits there,” Mattingly said.

With a left-hander going Tuesday for the Diamondbacks, Mattingly left both Dietrich and first baseman Justin Bour of the lineup. Mattingly said he’ll likely put Dietrich in the leadoff spot most of the time, even against some lefthanders.

EXTRA BASES

Though it won’t be with the Marlins, Gordon could return to the field as early as next week with their extended spring team in Jupiter. There is also a chance he could play in Gulf Coast League games in June and July since no fan admission is charged for those. The earliest he can begin a rehab assignment with one of the Marlins’ minor league clubs is 10 days before his suspension is up in late July. … The Marlins will be among a group of teams on hand for Tim Lincecum’s showcase on Friday. The two-time Cy Young Award winner is coming off hip surgery.

COMING UP

Wednesday: Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez (2-2, 4.08) vs. Arizona Diamondbacks RHP Rubby De La Rosa (3-3, 4.18), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.

Thursday: Marlins LHP Adam Conley (1-1, 3.67) vs. Arizona Diamondbacks LHP Robbie Ray (1-1, 4.97), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.

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