Dodgers return to L.A. as MLB investigates Justin Turner’s on-field celebration following positive coronavirus result

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Major League Baseball officials announced an investigation Wednesday after Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner went onto the field to celebrate the team’s World Series win Tuesday night despite testing positive for the coronavirus.

The 35-year-old player violated safety protocols and was “wrong” to leave isolation and put others at risk, the league said.

Turner was removed from the game before the beginning of the eighth inning. The Dodgers won the series — after a 32-year championship drought — in Game 6 over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Turner, 35, tweeted that he felt “great, no symptoms at all,” and was having “every emotion you can possibly imagine” after the victory.

Some time after players poured onto the field to celebrate, about an hour after the game’s end, Turner could be seen among his teammates. He kissed his wife; he hugged superstar pitcher Clayton Kershaw.

Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner celebrates with the trophy after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

As the team posed for photos, Turner was there, next to manager Dave Roberts. No one wore masks for the photo, though most players had been doing so earlier in the celebration.

With the team since 2014, Turner is a staple of the Dodgers lineup and is beloved by fans. He became a free agent when his $64 million, four-year contract expired following the victory.

“We’re not excluding him from anything,” right fielder Mookie Betts said.

The postseason had been held in a bubble with regular coronavirus testing. All games were played at Globe Life Field — the new home of the Rangers in Arlington, Texas — and it was about a quarter full of fans for World Series games.

As the series began, no players had tested positive in more than 50 days.

Then, as the Dodgers looked ready to finally earn a title after several heartbreaking seasons, their longtime third baseman was mysteriously pulled, leaving fans speculating. News that Turner had a positive coronavirus test came out shortly after the Dodgers’ 3-1 win over the Rays.

In its Wednesday statement, the league said a positive test result triggered protocols that led to Turner’s removal. He was put into isolation “for the safety of those around him.”

The MLB statement continued:

However, following the Dodgers’ victory, it is clear that Turner chose to disregard the agreed-upon joint protocols and the instructions he was given regarding the safety and protection of others. While a desire to celebrate is understandable, Turner’s decision to leave isolation and enter the field was wrong and put everyone he came in contact with at risk. When MLB Security raised the matter of being on the field with Turner, he emphatically refused to comply.

Major League Baseball

Nasal swab tests were given to the Dodgers’ “traveling party” on Tuesday night, and both teams were being tested again Wednesday. The teams’ return home to Tampa and L.A. were contingent on approval from the “appropriate authorities,” MLB stated.

Both teams were traveling home from the Dallas area on Wednesday in coordination with their local health authorities, a person familiar with the arrangements said, speaking on condition of anonymity because no announcement was made.

No additional players received positive results from rapid PCR tests early Wednesday, the person said, but the wife of one Rays player tested positive, the person said. The wife and the player did not travel with the team and were to travel on their own, the person said.

A private plane was being arranged for Turner’s travel, the person said.

Around 5:30 p.m., Sky5 was above LAX as several Dodgers teammates, staff and family members got off a United flight, including Betts — proudly hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy — Cody Bellinger and Julio Urías. Bellinger also shared a photo from aboard the plane with the hardware.

Joc Pederson posted a photo of himself in front of a plane smaller than the one others were seen getting off of.

During the game on Tuesday, it was the bottom of the second inning when Turner’s sample from a Monday test was received with an inconclusive result — one of many such results the league has seen. The result prompted a call from the Utah testing lab to MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem, according to a person familiar with the conversation who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because details were not released.

Halem told the lab to run Turner’s pregame sample from earlier in the day, and that result came back positive in the sixth inning, the source said. Officials with the league and the Dodgers were notified, and Turner was removed after the seventh inning. The Los Angeles Times had previously reported he was pulled in the eighth inning.

“It was obviously a really unfortunate endpoint of this incredible series and definitely affected some of the joy of winning just because of what JT has meant to us,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Tuesday night.

Asked about Turner’s appearance on the field, Friedman noted the player already been in close contact with teammates.

“Having a mask on and staying socially distanced, he want to come out and take a picture with the trophy, which can’t state strongly enough how big of a role he’s played in the success of this organization,” Friedman said.

“But I think for him, just being a free agent, not knowing exactly how the future is going to play out. I don’t think there was anyone that was going to stop him from going out,” he said. “I think from at least my perspective and not watching it super closely with everything going on, but I think he was mindful of other people, especially other people that he hadn’t already been in contact with. This is something that we’re going to wrap our arms around tonight and in the morning and figure out where we’re going from here.”

Friedman acknowledged it was “not good optics at all” if photos showed Turner without a mask. He said he hadn’t seen the photos.

“But I think from our standpoint, I think the people who were around him were people that would be in the contact tracing web, anyway, with just how closely a lot of us have been around each other,” he said. “And so now I think the subsequent tests we’re going to take are really important to figure out what we do and to make sure that any of us that are potentially positive do not spread it to other people.”

The Commissioner’s Office is starting a full investigation, and will “consult with the Players Association within the parameters of the joint 2020 Operations Manual,” the league said in its Wednesday statement.

Turner has served as a player representative on the union executive board. He addressed the success of reaching the World Series despite the pandemic on Oct. 19, a day before Game 1.

“I think it’s ultimately a testament to the players for being responsible and making good choices and doing everything that we had to do to ensure that the season was able to go on,” he said. “So I tip my cap to every player who put the uniform on and took that risk of playing and was responsible about it and did it the right way and enabled us to have a full season and now be able to participate in a World Series.”

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