Rays’ Austin Meadows looks to bounce back after being set back by coronavirus

PORT CHARLOTTE — In time, there will be comprehensive scientific studies of the long-term implications of COVID-19 on elite athletes.

For now, Austin Meadows seems a pretty good example of how even a relatively mild case can ruin a 60-game baseball season. And, potentially, alter a career trajectory.

The symptoms Meadows had in July weren’t much — general fatigue for a few days and a loss of his senses of taste and of smell (which still isn’t all the way back).

But it was enough to start the Rays outfielder down the spiral of a disappointing 2020 showing.

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The three weeks Meadows was sidelined at the start of the Spring 2.0 training camp had a direct effect on him being out of shape, getting injured and playing much less productively. He hit .205 with four homers, 13 RBIs and a .667 OPS in 36 games, down considerably from his breakout 2019 season when he earned All-Star honors, was voted co-team MVP and had discussions, since-tabled, on a long-term deal.

“His season was pretty messed up given COVID, injuries here and there,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He was always kind of swimming uphill, trying to catch up. And it’s tough to do at the major-league level when you’re rushed. He wanted to be here. He wanted to perform like he did in 2019. Sometimes, it’s just not meant to be.”

And sometimes, you have to do something about…

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