MLB: Canada forces Blue Jays to find a new nest

TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays are talking to several teams about sharing a major league ballpark this season after Canada’s government barred them from playing in their home stadium amid the coronavirus pandemic, general manager Ross Atkins said Monday.

“We are focused on getting into a major league facility,” Atkins said.

He declined to identify the teams but said the Blue Jays have more than five contingency plans.

Canada denied the Blue Jays’ request to play at Rogers Centre because the regular-season schedule would require frequent travel back and forth from the United States, where COVID-19 cases are surging.

Atkins said if the Blue Jays can’t find a major league park, their Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo, New York, would be their most likely site for home games.

But based on what the players want and the collaboration they are getting from other teams and Major League Baseball, Atkins said the Blue Jays are focused on major league parks, as long as they can be safe. He said health and safety is the priority, so the ability to be socially distant without comprising other teams’ ability to maintain socially distance is important.

Toronto begins the season at Tampa Bay on Friday and is scheduled to play its first home game on July 29 against defending champion Washington.

Infielder Joe Panik said each player has two equipment bags packed, a road and home bag, but they don’t know where the home bag is going. “Your guess is as good as mine,” he said.

The team had been considering playing home games at its training facility in Dunedin, Florida, which is among the states that are virus hotspots, or Sahlen Field in Buffalo, just across the Niagara River from Canada. Players have told management they want to be in a major league park.

Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro said Saturday that player health is a concern in Florida. He said the team has spent more time examining Buffalo in recent days but said the stadium there has numerous infrastructure challenges.

“We’re going to do everything we can to have the best possible situation,” Atkins said. “Our players understand there is only so much we can control.”

MLB said if the Blue Jays play at a minor league park, the league would install the necessary video review infrastructure but might not be able to install TrackMan, a radar system that analyzes pitch movement.

Atkins said if the Blue Jays end up in Buffalo, their alternative training site for extra players would be in Rochester, New York.

 

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