Vázquez, Boston’s primary catcher for the past six seasons, tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, just one day after Plawecki tested positive. Utility infielder Jonathan Araúz was another Sox player who tested positive Tuesday.
All three players have been vaccinated.
According to updated rules this season, a player can be reinstated from the COVID-19-related injury list after producing two negative tests and no fever. This applies to vaccinated and unvaccinated players, but typically someone who has been vaccinated will spend less time testing negative.
The 25-year-old Wong joined the Red Sox along with Alex Verdugo and Jeter Downs in the trade that sent Mookie Betts to the Dodgers in February 2020. He came to six games for Boston last season and kept himself with the bat (4-to -13) in its limited exposure to Major League pitching.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Wong, a switch-hitter, will start Tuesday and Wednesday against the Blue Jays.
If Vázquez or Plawecki do not return by Thursday, Hernández, Boston No. 24 view as rated by MLB Pipeline, he would probably make his MLB debut as it is a day game after a night match.
The timing for Wong’s start Tuesday was ideal because Nathan Eovaldi, the staff’s ace, was on the bump for the Red Sox.
Wong and Eovaldi are training partners in Texas in the low season. In fact, Eovaldi had three starts with Wong last season and had a 2.66 ERA in 20 1/3 innings over those outings. Wong does not have normal seasonal experience with Nick Pivetta, who will take the ball Wednesday night.
“He’s a good defender. Something about him, he’s very calm. He’s not panicking out there. His swing plays. He has some pop,” Cora said of Wong. “Last year was a tough year because he was on the taxi team, got injured, didn’t get too many fights. But he’s a guy we trust, a guy that the organization recognized a few years ago as part of Mookie’s trade. Last year he did a fantastic job in the handful of matches he played for us. He’s a guy we trust. “
Hernández, acquired from the Rays on February 17, 2021, will try to earn some confidence if he gets a shot. However, the right-handed hitter does not have the same knowledge of Boston’s pitching staff as Wong, having appeared in just three games as a reserve in Spring Training.
A right-handed striker from Colombia, Hernández ripped 16 homers in the Minor Leagues last season for Double-A Portland. He has had a slow start offensively (4-to-28) for Triple-A Worcester this season.
Aside from the fact that the red stockings have their catch depth temporarily depleted, there is also the natural concern that more positive tests may come in the coming days.
But perhaps no manager is better equipped to handle a situation like this than Cora, given the COVID-19 outburst that the Red Sox handled in the pennant race last season, when 12 players tested positive from August 27-Sept. 12.
These players included the cornerstones like Xander Bogaerts, Kiké Hernández and Chris Sale.
“This is the world we live in and we will adjust accordingly,” Cora said. “We did it last year. At one point in Tampa, we played Jack Lopez in second place, Jonathan Araúz short, and neither of you thought we were going to part with Tampa Bay, and we did. We’ll play it out and see, “What’s happening. We feel confident that these two guys can call the game. They are good offensively and we should be okay.”
Next week, the Red Sox have a different situation to deal with when they play in Toronto from the 25th-28th. April. Unvaccinated players are not allowed to enter Canada.
Righty Tanner Houck, Boston’s No. 3 starter, has already stated publicly that he has not been vaccinated and will have to miss his scheduled start in the second match in that series.
Cora said the Sox have other unvaccinated players who will miss that series, but none of those names are public yet.
“I think last year was tougher,” Cora said. “Last year it was absolutely wild. Leaves guys in Toronto and Chicago and Tampa [with COVID] and then act and we had no pitching and Xander came out of the match in the second inning and [Josh Taylor] in the third I remember all those events.
“So it was really hard because it was like in the middle of the fight. Here you know what you’re running into, you know where you’re on the roster and you go from there. We know who’s going to Toronto, so we already planning accordingly. “