MLB: Boston Red Sox at Atlanta Braves (copy)

Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes, the front-runner to be the team’s closer in 2021, will miss Opening Day after testing positive for COVID-19.

Matt Barnes has tested positive for COVID-19.

The veteran Red Sox reliever and potential closer in 2021 will be placed on the virus restricted list and has been ruled out for Opening Day. Boston manager Alex Cora reported the news prior to Saturday afternoon’s Grapefruit League game with Pittsburgh.

Matt Andriese was scratched from his scheduled start against the Pirates and has entered the club’s contact tracing protocols. Cora was uncertain how many Red Sox players and staff members have potentially been exposed to Barnes, who will quarantine at his Florida home for the immediate future.

“He feels OK,” Cora said. “There are no symptoms. It’s just a matter of he tested positive, and now we have to go through the whole thing.”

According to Major League Baseball protocols distributed to all 30 clubs in February, Barnes will be required to isolate for a minimum of 10 days. He will be subject to monitoring by both Boston medical personnel and the joint committee formed by MLB and the MLB Players Association. Barnes also will receive a cardiac evaluation in an attempt to avoid an incident of myocarditis, the inflammation of the heart muscle that shut down Eduardo Rodriguez prior to the 2020 season.

Barnes and fellow right-hander Adam Ottavino were seen as the most likely contenders to start the season at the back end of the Red Sox bullpen. He assumed the closer role in August when Brandon Workman was traded to the Phillies and converted on nine of his 12 chances. Barnes holds a career 4.08 ERA through 325 appearances with Boston — all but two of those have come in relief.

“They’ve been very responsible,” Cora said. “We’ve been praising them throughout camp. It just happened.

“Today you can feel it — you don’t want to hear this. You start thinking about what if something else happens or where we’re going to be in a few days. It’s not comfortable.”

Aside from Andriese, Cora declined to name any Red Sox players or staff members who could be subject to contact tracing. All Boston personnel cleared to attend camp at JetBlue Park has been fitted with electronic devices tracking their movements since their February arrival. Medical professionals from both Major League Baseball and the team should be able to discern who came into close contact with Barnes before and after his positive test late this week.

“It’s very useful,” Cora said. “That’s the reason we have it. You can actually avoid something bigger because of the devices.”

Cora declined to say whether or not pitching coach Dave Bush might have been exposed to Barnes. Any potential positive test for Bush could leave the Red Sox staff short entering the final week of camp and into the opening games of the season. Bullpen coach Kevin Walker has been in the Boston system since 2009 and reached the big leagues as an assistant pitching coach for the 2020 season.

“We have some capable people who can help us,” Cora said. “If it’s me, somebody will be capable of managing a big league game. If it’s the pitching coach, we’ve got some guys who have been involved with the program for the last 45 days.”

“From that end, we’ll be covered. My main concern is the players. Right now, obviously, it’s not the best morning for us.”

The Red Sox have hit something of a wall after breezing through the opening weeks of camp. The positive test for Barnes ends the same week in which Rodriguez was scratched from his Opening Day start and Christian Vazquez suffered facial lacerations after being hit by a ball during team drills. Rodriguez threw a bullpen session on Saturday morning and Vazquez continues to be evaluated by Boston’s medical staff.

“We’ve just got to stay the course,” Cora said. “We have to be disciplined. Hopefully this is just something in a month, two months, we look back and we’re like, ‘You know what? That was it.’ And we move forward.”