Brewers place Josh Hader on COVID-19 list after positive test

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
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MILWAUKEE — All-Star closer Josh Hader has joined the growing collection of Milwaukee Brewers on the COVID-19 injured list.

Brewers manager Craig Counsell said Hader reported contact with someone experiencing “COVID-like symptoms.”

“So we tested him, and it came back positive,” Counsell said before the Brewers’ Monday night game with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Pirates were also facing virus-related issues. Pittsburgh placed pitcher Chad Kuhl on the COVID-19 list after a positive test and recalled pitcher Shea Spitzbarth from Triple-A Indianapolis.

The positive tests mean Hader and Kuhl must sit out 10 days.

Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich and pitchers Jake Cousins, Jandel Gustave and Hunter Strickland already had been placed on the COVID-19 list over the last few days. The Brewers reinstated utilityman Jace Peterson on Monday after he had been sidelined due to contact tracing.

“The symptoms the guys are experiencing are fairly minor,” Counsell said. “We check in with them and have had no real health scares with them, so we feel like we’re in a good place there. Obviously, losing players fairly regularly hurts and makes it challenging.”

Counsell declined to say whether Hader was vaccinated.

Hader’s absence puts even more pressure on a bullpen that already had lost Cousins, Gustave and Strickland. The Brewers did shore up their relief corps by adding Daniel Norris and John Curtiss at the trade deadline.

Milwaukee made one more move to boost its bullpen Monday by acquiring John Axford from the Toronto Blue Jays. Axford, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2018, was with the Brewers from 2009-13 and set a franchise record with 46 saves in 2011.

“Different names have to step up,” Counsell said. “That’s how it’s going to have to work. We’ve dealt with this off and on throughout the year, whether it was injuries and now COVID, so other guys are going to get the ball and have to step up.”

Hader is 3-2 with a 1.83 ERA, 22 saves and 67 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings this season.

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.