Royals' Dozier tests positive for COVID-19 before exhibition

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Kansas City Royals' Hunter Dozier bats during the first inning of an exhibition baseball game against the Houston Astros in Kansas City, Mo., Monday, July 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kansas City Royals outfielder Hunter Dozier has tested positive for COVID-19 and was placed on the injured list before the club played its final exhibition game against the Cardinals in St. Louis on Wednesday.

The 28-year-old is coming off a breakthrough season in which he hit 26 homers, tied for the American League lead in triples and had 84 RBIs. He is expected to play a big role for the Royals during their abbreviated 60-game season, which begins against the Indians on Friday night in Cleveland.

"I’m disappointed to say the least,” Dozier said. “I have been hit with a couple of symptoms that go with the virus, so I need to follow our medical team’s direction, get well and then work on getting back on the field. It’s disheartening because I felt things were going well on the field and I have a good feeling about the ball club we have.

“To have to watch for whatever period of time that I’m out is going to painful.”

Painful for the Royals, too.

They still have catcher Cam Gallagher, first baseman Ryan O’Hearn, catching prospect Nick Dini and relief pitcher Daniel Tillo on the injured list with COVID-19. All-Star catcher Salvador Pérez, starters Brad Keller and Jakob Junis, and third baseman Matt Reynolds tested positive but have been cleared to return.

The startling number of positive tests represents about 10% of those made public by players and teams.

“We spoke last night and he was asymptomatic. Today he started to have a couple more things kick up,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “He's sad. He's frustrated as well. A couple of these guys — they're not going to shy away — they're just angry. They worked so hard to get themselves ready and this thing comes along, even when they've been so careful, going to crazy extents to wear masks, to wash hands, to do everything. And it still snuck up on them.”