Houston Baker back after missing 5 games with COVID-19

HOUSTON (AP) — Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker returned Thursday for the series finale against the Texas Rangers after a five-game absence after testing positive for COVID-19.

Baker, 73, said he never felt unwell and only had mild symptoms which he attributed to seasonal allergies before testing positive.

“I’m very lucky to have had my two shots and the two boosters,” he said. “So I really hope everyone goes for the shots and the boosters because if you get (COVID-19) I hope it’s mild like mine.”

Baker tested positive Friday when the team was traveling to Cleveland. He isolated himself in his hotel room all weekend and did not return to Houston with the team Sunday night.

He returned to Houston on a private jet on Monday, but was not allowed to return to the shelter until Thursday.

At first, Baker hosted the rest amid a turbulent season in which he didn’t have time off during the All-Star break because he was the manager of the AL team. But after a few days, boredom set in.

“I listened to music all day, watched TV, made phone calls and caught up on things,” he said. “I’m not bored, but after five or six days you want to come back here.”

He followed the team by watching games on television and staying in constant contact with bench coach Joe Espada, who managed the team in his absence. He didn’t watch a game — Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Cleveland — because it aired on Peacock, NBC’s streaming service, and he didn’t know how to watch it in his hotel room.

He wasn’t so crazy about it, though, as he used the extra time to watch a Bob Marley documentary on Netflix while following the game on his phone.

“It was a really good afternoon,” he said, adding that he had seen the late reggae great in concert twice, including once in Jamaica.

Baker said he had never been so concerned about testing positive despite being in a high-risk age group.

“Not really because I didn’t feel anything,” he said. “And I was waiting to feel something.”

The Astros, who at 71-41 started Thursday tied with the Yankees for the best record in the American League, went 2-3 as Baker sat out.

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