Brewers’ Strickland, Cousins positive for COVID-19

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

ATLANTA — Milwaukee Brewers pitchers Jake Cousins and Hunter Strickland tested positive for COVID-19 and will be placed in quarantine in the latest cases to affect the NL Central leaders.

A third reliever, Jandel Gustave, will miss Saturday night’s game at Atlanta due to contact tracing.

Earlier this week, star outfielder Christian Yelich tested positive for the coronavirus and was showing mild symptoms. Utilityman Jace Peterson was sidelined at the time due to contact tracing.

Asked if these new positives were connected to Yelich’s case, Brewers manager Craig Counsell said “no way to know that.”

Counsell said the team is “hoping we can minimize it and keep it where it is.”

The positive tests came after Cousins and Strickland, who Counsell said have had vaccinations, reported symptoms.

“Tonight’s game is not in jeopardy,” Counsell said. “We’ve been in contact with Major League Baseball. We’ve done exhaustive contact tracing. So no issues with tonight’s game.”

Counsell said the team was fortunate that two relief pitchers acquired in trades on Friday, Daniel Norris and John Curtiss, joined the Brewers in time for Saturday night’s game.

“They’re both good to go,” Counsell said.

“We’re fine for the game strategically to go all out and try and win the game. We’re obviously a little concerned this is just popping up so we’re trying to get through that part of it,” he said.

Counsell said he did not yet know if the players placed in quarantine would remain in Atlanta when the team returns to Milwaukee on Sunday to open a homestand against Pittsburgh on Monday.

Counsell said the positive tests were the latest evidence that “COVID is still around us.”

“We have to understand that,” he said. “Everybody is doing their best, but obviously … it’s challenging.”

Cousins is 1-0 and has not allowed a run in 14 1/3 innings. Strickland is 0-1 with a 1.76 ERA in 14 games. Gustave is 1-0 and hasn’t allowed a run in six appearances.

Cousins was placed on the COVID-19 injured list, and Strickland will be placed on the list on Sunday. Gustave was put on the injured list for COVID-19 contact.

MLB, union resume blood testing after pandemic, lockout

Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK – In the first acknowledgment that MLB and the players’ association resumed blood testing for human growth hormone, the organizations said none of the 1,027 samples taken during the 2022 season tested positive.

HGH testing stopped in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Testing also was halted during the 99-day lockout that ended in mid-March, and there were supply chain issues due to COVID-19 and additional caution in testing due to coronavirus protocols.

The annual public report is issued by Thomas M. Martin, independent program administrator of MLB’s joint drug prevention and treatment program. In an announcement accompanying Thursday’s report, MLB and the union said test processing is moving form the INRS Laboratory in Quebec, Canada, to the UCLA Laboratory in California.

MLB tests for HGH using dried blood spot testing, which was a change that was agreed to during bargaining last winter. There were far fewer samples taken in 2022 compared to 2019, when there were 2,287 samples were collected – none positive.

Beyond HGH testing, 9,011 urine samples were collected in the year ending with the 2022 World Series, up from 8,436 in the previous year but down from 9,332 in 2019. And therapeutic use exemptions for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder dropped for the ninth straight year, with just 72 exemptions in 2022.

Overall, the league issued six suspensions in 2022 for performance-enhancing substances: three for Boldenone (outfielder/first baseman Danny Santana, pitcher Richard Rodriguez and infielder Jose Rondon, all free agents, for 80 games apiece); one each for Clomiphene (Milwaukee catcher Pedro Severino for 80 games), Clostebol (San Diego shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. for 80 games) and Stanozolol (Milwaukee pitcher J.C. Mejia for 80 games).

There was an additional positive test for the banned stimulant Clobenzorex. A first positive test for a banned stimulant results in follow-up testing with no suspension.