Justin Turner was removed from Game 6 of the World Series after the seventh inning. No reason was given for why the Dodgers took out their three-hitter and slick fielding third baseman.
Only after the Dodgers clinched their first World Series title since 1988 with a 3-1 win over the Rays did Fox break the news: Turner had received a positive test result for COVID-19 during the game and was immediately removed. That came after his test from the day before had returned an inconclusive result. While Turner was supposed to remain in isolation after his removal from the game, he eventually returned to the field for postgame celebrations, where he took part in photographs, both with his mask on and off.
This is a look at how Turner was allowed to play a part in Tuesday’s game, and what led to him returning to the field for the celebrations despite having just tested positive.
What happened to Justin Turner?
MLB players submitted daily spit tests during the postseason to test for the coronavirus. The Dodgers submitted those tests Monday, the off day between Games 5 and 6, as they’d done the entire postseason. MLB has shipped its tests to a lab in Utah, and that’s what it did with those Monday tests. For whatever reason, these particular test results came back late, according to ESPN.
ESPN reported that MLB got a call in the second inning of Game 6 saying that one test result had come back inconclusive: Turner’s. The Tuesday spit tests had also arrived in Utah, per ESPN, and MLB told the lab to fast-track Turner’s Tuesday test. The results were supposed to come back in about two hours from that second-inning call. Turner remained in the game. According to ESPN, no MLB player had been removed from a game or told not to play during the season because of an inconclusive test result.
In the seventh inning, MLB received another call from its lab saying that Turner had tested positive for COVID-19 from his Tuesday test, per multiple reports. The league informed the Dodgers, who replaced Turner at third base with Edwin Rios.
Later footage from Fox showed Turner seeming to be informed of the news in the dugout and heading down the tunnel to the clubhouse. He was not seen in the initial celebration shots after the Dodgers recorded the final outs. According to The Athletic, Turner was asked by league officials, security personnel and some Dodgers officials to remain in isolation after the game. But Turner returned to the field about an hour after the game’s conclusion.
The Athletic reported that Turner was on the field for about 20 minutes, hugging teammates and posing with the championship trophy and in the team photo. At times, he wore a mask over his mouth and nose, but at other points Turner’s mask served as no more than a chin covering.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan spoke on “Get Up!” on Wednesday morning and said the explanation for how Turner wound up back on the field was “simple.” Passan reiterated what he tweeted late last night: “The answer is he went back out and nobody stopped him. He was asked to isolate and didn’t.”
Passan went on to clarify Wednesday morning that the Dodgers had yet to leave Arlington, Texas, as they awaited the results of PCR tests to see whether anyone else with the team was currently positive for the coronavirus.
When did Justin Turner test positive for COVID-19?
Turner’s Monday test for COVID-19 came back with an inconclusive result, which isn’t uncommon. According to ESPN, that inconclusive test showed “some characteristics” of a positive test, but the doctors running the test were unable to amplify the results in a way that would show them for sure. MLB received that inconclusive result during the second inning of Game 6.
On Tuesday, Turner and the rest of the Dodgers again had undergone spit tests like they did every day during the playoffs. Once Turner’s Monday test came back inconclusive during the second inning of Game 6, MLB asked the lab to expedite Turner’s Tuesday test. ESPN reported that result would come about two hours after that request.
The Dodgers removed Turner from Game 6 leading into the eighth inning as Edwin Rios came out to play third base. Fox footage shows Turner being spoken to in the dugout before he exits with a staff member down the tunnel. Multiple postgame reports indicate that the Dodgers learned Turner tested positive after receiving a call from MLB, which had just heard from the lab, during the seventh inning. Turner flew out in the bottom of the sixth inning and played defense in the top of the seventh inning, which would suggest the result filtered down to the Dodgers by the bottom of the seventh.
The Athletic reported that Dodgers’ utility man Kiké Hernández noticed president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman talking to Dave Roberts before the eighth inning and wondered what was going on before he overheard them discussing Turner.
What did Rob Manfred, others say about Justin Turner’s positive test?
When Fox’s Tom Verducci spoke with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred after Game 6, he asked one question about Turner. Manfred said Turner was removed from the game and “immediately isolated to prevent the spread (of COVID-19).” Friedman echoed that sentiment in his postgame press conference when he was asked why the Dodgers didn’t follow the rules, responding, “We did. … When he came out of the game, he was quarantined in a doctor’s office over to the side.”
Roberts told Rosenthal on Fox after the game that he didn’t know everything in that immediate moment. The Dodgers knew of the positive test result, but Roberts wasn’t sure whether it may have been a false positive. Roberts added that he didn’t touch Turner during the team picture because he “didn’t know.”
Friedman added more of his thinking on Turner as his press conference went on: “Again, I think a lot of those instances are people who are around different and new people. The fact that we were all in a bubble together means from a contact tracing standpoint, we were all in that web. Now it’s important that we all test negative how many times, or whatever the protocols are, to make sure that we don’t go out and potentially spread it to other people.”
The Dodgers’ two biggest stars, Mookie Betts and Clayton Kershaw, were both asked about Turner after the game.
Betts: “He’s J.T. When you think of J.T., you think of the L.A. Dodgers.”
Kershaw: “I feel terrible for him, but he’s the reason we won. He’s part of it. They can never take away the fact that we’re World Series champions. For the rest of his life, he’s going to be the main reason we won a World Series.”
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal also reported one anonymous quote from a Dodgers official about the postgame thinking. “We’re going to get him a picture, then get him off (the field),” the official told Rosenthal. “We can’t deny him that. The guy is the heart and soul of the organization.”
Turner himself did send out a tweet less than an hour after the game ended, clarifying that he had no symptoms and felt good.
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
Justin Turner COVID-19 timeline
— Monday, Oct. 26: Turner and the rest of the Dodgers partake in their daily spit test for COVID-19.
— Tuesday, Oct. 27, Second Inning: MLB receives word that Turner’s Monday test came back with an inconclusive result. Turner remains in the game, and MLB asks its lab in Utah to fast-track Turner’s Tuesday test.
— Tuesday, Oct. 27, Seventh Inning: MLB is told Turner’s spit test from Tuesday came back positive for COVID-19. The Dodgers remove Turner from the game before the eighth inning. Turner was told at that point to isolate, per multiple reports.
— Late Tuesday, Oct. 27 into early Wednesday, Oct. 28: Turner is seen on Globe Life Field celebrating and taking pictures with his teammates about an hour after the Dodgers won the World Series. In some shots, Turner is correctly wearing his mask. In others, it’s wrapped below his chin.