Pirates Blake Cederlind, Socrates Brito test positive for COVID-19

Jason Mackey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Baseball

PITTSBURGH -- Manager Derek Shelton said on Saturday that the Pirates did indeed have a couple people test positive for COVID-19.

A day later, with two players' permission, he divulged who had contracted COVID-19 -- reliever Blake Cederlind and Socrates Brito.

Neither Cederlind nor Brito was expected to begin the 2020 season with the big club, although Cederlind, a hard-throwing right-hander who turned heads in spring training, probably had the better chance of the two.

The bigger story here is the continual drip of COVID-19-related news in Major League Baseball -- positive tests, opt-outs and some players, including Mike Trout and Buster Posey, questioning whether this is all smart, safe or both.

That the Pirates are not alone makes sense. By sheer math, when you consider that more than 3,000 people have been tested, it would almost be weird if every team wasn't represented in some way.

At the same time, that's also what's crazy here: As the sport does its best to try and keep everyone safe and press forward toward a 60-game season, every team will be represented in some way.

"Very much appreciate it," Shelton said of Cederlind and Brito giving permission for their results to be shared. "Very much respect the other people that we have who don't feel that it's necessary to talk about, but I think it is (important) for people to realize that it is real in the game."

Because of HIPAA, Shelton wasn't able to say anything more about those two testing positive, including nothing about whether they were symptomatic or what those symptoms might've been.

Cederlind and Brito, per MLB's health and safety protocols, will be quarantined, and they'll have to produce two negative tests before they're allowed to return to group activities.

In addition to contact tracing, where the Pirates will find with whom those two came in contact, Shelton said, "There are some other things that they have to do medically before they can get back on the field." He did not elaborate.

Cederlind, 24, was a fifth-round pick in 2016. After pitching to a 7.59 ERA over his final 17 appearances in 2018, the Turlock, California, native picked up a sinker, turning the lack of spin on his fastball into an advantage.


That led to a quick ascent through the minors in 2019. After seven games with High-A Bradenton, where Cederlind had a 1.17 ERA, he went 5-1 with Class AA Altoona, producing an ERA of 1.77 with 42 strikeouts and just 16 walks in 45 2/3 innings.

This spring, Cederlind stood out by lighting up the radar gun while his blonde locks flapped in the wind. His strut after strikeouts was hilarious. The same for when he had some spike issues and fell down after delivering a pitch.

In five spring outings, Cederlind had nine strikeouts, did not allow a hit and walked four.

Brito is a different story, a quieter one. Among the five outfielders the Pirates have in Pittsburgh, he's very clearly No. 5 and was expected to begin the season with Class AAA Indianapolis.

Although the 27-year-old is a .179 lifetime hitter at this level, he's still an interesting name. For one, the left-handed hitter slashed .282/.328/.510 in 428 plate appearances with Class AAA Buffalo in the Blue Jays' system last summer and was at .318/.383/.540 the year before that (Class AAA Reno, Diamondbacks).

Brito has typically fared well against minor league pitching but never has been able to translate those results to the big leagues, with the Azua, Dominican Republic, native striking out in 56 of his 207 at-bats.

Still, Brito has a solid hard contact rate (31.6%) and a low BABIP (.218 in 218 plate appearances), meaning it could also be a bunch of really bad luck.

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