Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, who was pulled from Game 6 of the World Series after the team learned he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, returned to the field after the team clinched the championship, celebrating with his teammates and pulling down his mask for team photos with the trophy.
Turner was oddly absent when the Dodgers took the field for the eighth inning Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Rays, with Edwin Ríos taking over at third. Los Angeles went on to a 3-1 victory that brought the Dodgers their first championship since 1988.
“We learned during the game,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said after the game of Turner’s positive result. “He was immediately isolated to prevent spread. … It’s a bittersweet night for us. We’re glad to be done. I do think it’s a great accomplishment for our players to get this season completed, but obviously we’re concerned when any of our players test positive.”
Per ESPN, MLB learned that Turner’s test taken Monday was inconclusive but that Tuesday’s sample came up positive. MLB notified the Dodgers at that point, and the team pulled Turner from the game. When the Dodgers returned to their hotel Tuesday, each team member was to get a rapid coronavirus test.
In the second inning tonight, the lab doing COVID tests informed MLB that Justin Turner’s test from yesterday came back inconclusive. The samples from today had just arrived and were run. It showed up positive. The league immediately called the Dodgers and said to pull Turner.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 28, 2020
Turner headed to Twitter shortly after the game.
“Thanks to everyone for reaching out! I feel great, no symptoms at all,” he tweeted. “Just experienced every emotion you can possibly imagine. Can’t believe I couldn’t be out there to celebrate with my guys! So proud of this team & unbelievably happy for the City of LA.”
Thanks to everyone reaching out! I feel great, no symptoms at all. Just experienced every emotion you can possibly imagine. Can’t believe I couldn’t be out there to celebrate with my guys! So proud of this team & unbelievably happy for the City of LA#WorldSeriesChamps
— Justin Turner (@redturn2) October 28, 2020
Turner, 35, was not initially on the field to celebrate with his teammates at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, after the final out was recorded Tuesday, but he later returned to the field to hold the World Series trophy, with the Wall Street Journal’s Jared Diamond reporting that MLB officials “instructed security to get Turner back into isolation. Turner refused to leave” the field.
Justin Turner went into isolation after finding out he had tested positive. He eventually returned to the field on his own accord.
When MLB officials found out, they instructed security to get Turner back into isolation. Turner refused to leave.https://t.co/GbgOeFxKZA
— Jared Diamond (@jareddiamond) October 28, 2020
Turner and Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw hugged while both were wearing masks, then Turner pulled his mask down during team photos taken with the trophy.
“All I know is I had to take him out of the game in the seventh inning, which was crazy,” Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts said in an on-field interview after the game. “He tested positive, and I don’t know if it’s a false positive. I have no idea. . . . He was in the team picture. I didn’t touch him, just because I didn’t know, but it was really crazy and I was really disappointed that, obviously with that, he couldn’t be out there to celebrate with us.”
Dave Roberts tells us what he knows about Justin Turner’s status.pic.twitter.com/x017GoeiOG
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 28, 2020
Fox Sports reported that Turner was “asked” not to go back onto the field for the postgame festivities, but “he insisted upon it [and] the Dodgers insisted upon it.”
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 28, 2020
“He’s part of the team,” Los Angeles’s Mookie Betts said of Turner being included in the team photo. “Forget all that. He’s part of the team. We’re not excluding him from anything.”
#Dodgers Mookie Betts was asked about Justin Turner being on field for photos: “He’s part of the team. Forget all that. He’s part of the team. We’re not excluding him from anything.”
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) October 28, 2020
Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations, defended Turner’s postgame action. “He wanted to come out and take a picture with the trophy,” Friedman said in a news conference. “I can’t overstate what he’s meant to us. Him being a free agent, I don’t think anyone was going to stop him from going out. I think he was mindful of other people, especially other people he hadn’t been around.”
He admitted that the site of a maskless Turner and others was concerning. “If there’s people around him without a mask, that’s not good optics at all.”
Some members of the Dodgers could be considered at higher risk during the pandemic. Roberts is a cancer survivor and Kenley Jansen, who had the virus over the summer, has had past heart issues.
It was the first known positive test for an MLB player in more than six weeks. The pandemic caused MLB to truncate its season to 60 games, starting in July, and expand its postseason field to an unprecedented 16 teams.
The Dodgers have been sequestered in a bubble at an Arlington-area resort since Oct. 4, after they began the playoffs at home with a two-game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers. Once the first round of the MLB postseason was completed, all of the remaining teams went into bubbles, with others located in Houston, Los Angeles and San Diego, for the divisional series and later rounds. The Rays were in the San Diego bubble for the American League Division Series and their AL Championship Series win over the Houston Astros before joining the Dodgers at the World Series site.
Turner completed his seventh season with the Dodgers, for whom he has batted .302 and helped to three National League pennants over the past four seasons.
Turner reached the major leagues with the Baltimore Orioles in 2009, then was selected off waivers in 2010 by the New York Mets. A familiar figure for his long red hair and bushy beard, he hit his stride after signing with the Dodgers in 2014 as a free agent, notching an all-star nod in 2017 and finishing in the top 15 in NL MVP voting from 2016 through 2018.
“To have that happen to a guy like that, a dude that’s reinvented himself when he came here, what he’s meant to this organization, what he’s meant to this franchise, what he’s meant to this community – to take that away from him, it’s gut-wrenching,” Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, who was named World Series MVP, said of Turner at a postgame news conference. “It hurts me. I can’t imagine how he feels. If I could switch places with him right now, I would.”