McCoy: Reds hit vaccination threshold for COVID-19, get some protocols relaxed

Castellanos on some restrictions being lifted: ‘Anything to get back to the good old days of 2019, I’m for’

The Cincinnati Reds reached Major League Baseball’s 85 percent vaccination threshold this week, meaning among many things, no more masks required in the dugout and bullpen.

It also means that Tier One personnel (players, coaches, trainers) are free to do things that they have been prohibited from doing under the COVID-19 pandemic protocols.

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On the road, they can leave the hotel and eat in restaurants, they can have family and friends stay with them, they can use public transportation, they can use the sauna and whirlpools — none of which was permitted until 85 percent of the team’s Tier One members were vaccinated.

And nobody seems more pleased about it than Reds right fielder Nick Castellanos. He leads the league with a .359 batting average after 51 games and shows no signs of slowing down. He took a 16-game hitting streak into Monday’s Memorial Day game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Castellanos started fast last season, too, but tapered off as the shortened 60-game season came to a close. And he blames that slowdown finish on the pandemic.

“I’m a lot happier this year, you know,” he said. “Last year, with all of the restrictions and the state of the country and the anger and everything. I was just an unhappy, depressed, trapped person. And that’s not a good remedy for success in anything you do.”

Castellanos is a much happier guy these days, even though he is taciturn with few smiles during interviews. A lot of that has to do with no face-to-face interaction with the media.

Even with the mask restrictions and other rules lifted after the Reds reached the vaccination requirement, all media interviews are done via Zoom.

As he addressed the media before Monday’s game, Castellanos was in a room staring at a camera.

“Get rid of Zoom? Yeah, honestly, this is terrible,” he said. “What am I doing, talking to screen? A camera and a screen. Y’know? Screens to me are the worst possible things people can look at. I’m sick and tired of it, honestly.”

Of the lifted restrictions, Castellanos said, “Anything to get back to the good old days of 2019, I’m for. I’m ready to put everything that has to do with Covid in the rear-view mirror and never look back at it.”

As he appeared on the screen, as usual, Castellanos was wearing a red shirt he wears under his uniform. On the chest is the number 21.

“I got this at the Roberto Clemente Museum in Pittsburgh,” he said, referring to the former Pirates outfielder/humanitarian. Clemente finished the 1972 season with 3,000 hits, then perished off the coast of Puerto Rico in a plane crash

The cargo plane, later discovered unfit to fly, was filled with supplies to aid earthquake victims in Nicaragua, a flight he organized and for which he paid.

“It is an incredible place (the Clemente Museum) with a tremendous amount of baseball history. It’s an awesome celebration of pretty much who Roberto Clemente was, how he played the game, how he treated other people and what he meant to the city of Pittsburgh.”

Castellanos isn’t the only Reds player who pays tribute to Clemente. Pitcher/outfielder Michael Lorenzen wears Reds uniform No. 21 in honor of Clemente.

Wade Miley was scheduled to come off the injured list Monday to pitch against the Phillies, carrying a 4-4 record and a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians.

“That’s massive,” said Castellanos. “If he does what he did in Cleveland every single time, I like our chances.”

Miley is back, but Jesse Winker and his high-powered bat were not in Monday’s lineup. It was one of those planned days off that Castellanos has taken and that Eugenio Suarez has taken.

“It is tough taking him out of the lineup, for sure, the way he is swinging the bat,” said manager David Bell. “But coming off that road trip (three games in Washington, three days games in Chicago), I really believe this is the right day It is something he and I talked about for a few days leading up to today.”