Baseball scraps Marlins-Pirates series in Puerto Rico amid Zika concerns

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Zika virus concerns have forced the Pirates-Marlins series out of Puerto Rico, with baseball saying the two games will instead be played this month in Miami.

Marlins players have concerns about playing in Puerto Rico because of the Zika virus.
Marlins players have concerns about playing in Puerto Rico because of the Zika virus.

Major League Baseball and the players’ union made the announcement Friday. Pittsburgh and Miami will meet May 30-31 at Marlins Park.

The union had asked Commissioner Rob Manfred to relocate the games after several players expressed fears about getting and possibly transmitting the Zika virus.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said Zika can cause a birth defect called microcephaly, where infants are born with unusually small heads. The virus is most often spread by mosquito bites, but it also can be spread through sexual intercourse.

The CDC had spoken to players and staff from the Pirates and Marlins about the potential risks.

Pittsburgh and the Marlins were originally scheduled to play the series in Miami when the original draft of the schedule was made last year. On Nov. 19, MLB said the games would be played in Puerto Rico, the homeland of Pirates Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente and many other big leaguers.

MLB has played several regular-season games at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan in the past.

MLB may move Marlins-Pirates series out of Puerto Rico due to concerns over Zika

Marlins players have concerns about playing in Puerto Rico because of the Zika virus.
Marlins players have concerns about playing in Puerto Rico because of the Zika virus.

MIAMI — The Marlins expect a decision from Major League Baseball by the end of the week about whether their two-game series against the Pirates in Puerto Rico will be moved to Marlins Park because of concerns over the Zika virus.

The Marlins are scheduled to play the Pirates May 29-30 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium. Both teams have met with officials from the Center for Disease Control and Marlins players’ concerns have heightened since that meeting Friday in Milwaukee, according to Tom Koehler, the team’s player representative.

“There were some facts and things that were shocking to both sides that maybe we didn’t know going into the meeting,” Koehler said. “When everybody in the room sees it visually and hears it, it does maybe alter the decision a little bit.”

The players have taken a vote as to whether they want to play in Puerto Rico and although Koehler would not reveal the outcome of that vote, reports are that both teams would prefer to move the series to Miami. The games are Marlins home games.

The first death related to Zika in a U.S. territory was a 70-year-old man from Puerto Rico. Last week, the CDC confirmed 683 Zika infections in Puerto Rico.

The virus is spread by mosquitoes and can cause birth defects. Infections in adults can result in Guillen-Barre syndrome and even death.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly believes Major League Baseball and the union will make the right decision.

“You’re always concerned about your players’ health and safety,” Mattingly said. “I trust the union, and MLB is not going to put anybody in a position that’s dangerous.”

Koehler said there would be “a lot of precautions that would need to be taken” if the games were played in the 18,264-seat outdoor stadium, such as remaining in the hotel when not at the park, wearing long sleeves and covering any exposed skin with spray.

Players were told not to have any spouse, friend or family members who are pregnant make the trip if the games are played.