Eleven members of the Chiba Lotte Marines, including seven top-team players, tested positive for COVID-19 in testing done in the aftermath of pitcher Daiki Iwashita’s positive test on Sunday, the team announced Tuesday afternoon.
Takashi Ogino, an All-Star last season, Ikuhiro Kiyota, Takashi Toritani and Katsuya Kakunaka were among the players to test positive. Shota Ishimine, a member of the coaching staff, and three team staffers also tested positive. The Marines said some among the 11 had fevers and were experiencing mild symptoms.
The seven players who tested positive and four who tested negative but are deemed to have been in close contact with Iwashita will be taken off the top-team roster. There were 78 tests conducted (among players, coaches and staffers) on the top team. The club also tested 73 members of its farm team, with all results returning negative. Including Iwashita and another staffer, who both tested positive on Sunday, the Marines are dealing with 13 positive cases.
Lotte stated there was no evidence of the latest 11 to test positive going out — aside from moving to and from the stadium for practice and games — in the 48 hours before they were tested.
The outbreak is the second in NPB in recent weeks. In late September, four Hanshin Tigers players and a staff member tested positive for the virus.
Lotte is scheduled to host the Orix Buffaloes on Tuesday night at Zozo Marine Stadium, which the club says was disinfected on Monday.
The Marines are expected to call up a number of players from the farm team before the game — similar to what the Tigers did in September, when over 10 players (the positives and those deemed to have been in close contact) had to be replaced. Lotte’s farm team game was called off prior to the announcement of the positive tests.
For the Marines competitively, the situation comes at a highly inopportune time. Lotte, which is trying to win the pennant for the first time since 2005, is currently in second place in the Pacific League, just two games behind the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks with 28 left to play for both teams.
The Marines are scheduled to face SoftBank in a three-game series that starts Friday and will be followed by a three-game set, beginning Tuesday, against the third-place Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.
The news of the Lotte outbreak comes just a day after a meeting of the NPB-J. League COVID-19 task force, where the two leagues said they would explore the possibility allowing more fans to attend games.