Yoshihisa Hirano tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the Seattle Mariners pitcher told Kyodo News on Tuesday, making him the first Japanese major league player confirmed to have contracted the virus.
The Mariners placed the right-handed reliever on the injured list earlier in the day without providing a reason. Hirano signed a one-year deal with Seattle in January after going 9-8 with a 3.47 ERA over two seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The 36-year-old returned a positive result on June 25 after undergoing testing as per protocols established by Major League Baseball before the team convened for training camp at the beginning of the month.
At one point, Hirano suffered from a fever measuring 39 C, but soon recovered and tested negative for the virus on July 6. He needs another negative test to be able to return to active duty.
"(After the onset of symptoms) I just focused on healing my body," Hirano said. "I couldn't go anywhere or do anything because of the risk of passing it on to people around me."
"I haven't been able to train for almost two weeks, but it could all be over if I rush through it and get hurt," he said. "Right now I'm just thinking about getting back to the best condition as soon as possible."
Hirano practiced on his own at his home in Arizona for roughly three months after baseball shut down over coronavirus concerns in mid-March.
He has yet to join up with the Mariners and fellow Japanese pitcher Yusei Kikuchi since the club started summer camp on July 3, shortly after MLB decided to implement a 60-game season amid the pandemic. The Mariners' first game is slated for July 24 following the league openers a day earlier.
Instead of a 10-day injured list for position players and 15-day injured list for pitchers, only a 10-day injured list exists for the condensed 2020 season.
The league has also instituted a COVID-19 list, although clubs are not required to announce players have been placed on it due to privacy laws. Any player who tests positive needs two negative tests before being allowed to return.
Hirano made his MLB debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2018 after spending 12 seasons with the Orix Buffaloes in Japan, including a one-year injury layoff in 2008. Last season he went 5-5 with a 4.75 ERA and one save in 62 games.