Marlins players remain worried about Zika risk in Puerto Rico

ESPN logo
Tuesday, May 3, 2016

MIAMI -- Miami Marlins player representative Tom Koehler says the team attended a seminar on the Zika virus that heightened concerns about playing two games in Puerto Rico against the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 30-31.

A decision is expected by the end of the week regarding whether the games will be played as scheduled or moved, Koehler said Tuesday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave a presentation on the disease to the Marlins and representatives of Major League Baseball and the players' union.

"The information was more shocking to both sides," Koehler said. "Maybe shocking isn't the correct word, but there was a lot more information and data and numbers thrown our way that we didn't have."

Marlins players voted on whether to play the games as scheduled, Koehler said. He declined to share the result but said there's a lot of concern within the clubhouse about playing in Puerto Rico.

If moved, the games would likely be played in Miami because the Marlins are the home team.

MLB officials, the Marlins and Pirates said last month they expected the games to be played as scheduled, but union head Tony Clark described the health and safety concerns as serious. U.S. health officials say Puerto Rico is the front lines of the nation's battle with Zika.

The CDC has said Zika can cause a birth defect called microcephaly, which causes infants to be born with unusually small heads. The virus is most often spread by mosquito bites, but it also can be spread through sexual intercourse.

Pirates player rep Gerrit Cole said his understanding is MLB and the MLBPA met Monday, and there was no consensus by the Pirates or Marlins players on whether to play. Cole said he anticipated an update later in the week.

MLB medical director Gary Green held an hourlong meeting with the Pirates on Saturday.

The Marlins were told a lot of precautions would need to be taken if they go to Puerto Rico, Koehler said. He said recommendations included staying in the team hotel as much as possible when not at the ballpark and covering as much skin with clothing as possible.

"They told people if they had a pregnant spouse, that spouse should not go on the trip," Koehler said.

When asked whether some players might skip the trip if the games are played as scheduled, Koehler said, "I don't know what the options are, because there has been no decision made."

Marlins and Pirates team officials said they had nothing new to say regarding a decision.