TORONTO (AP) — Less than a week before Major League baseball teams resume training on July 1, the Toronto Blue Jays still haven’t been able to tell their players where to show up.
“Sometime over the weekend, we’ll get them on their way and tell them where to report,” Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro said on a conference call Friday. “We are obviously working on an accelerated time frame and we need to make a decision very soon.”
After spending weeks working on a “dual scenario” for their spring training site in Dunedin, Florida, and Rogers Centre in Toronto, a recent spike in coronavirus cases in Florida prompted the Blue Jays to petition the Canadian government to let players cross the closed U.S.-Canada border to safely prepare for the upcoming season.
“As the condition in Florida got worse and the spike happened … we raised the possibility of conducting our training in Toronto,” Shapiro said. “It just seemed like that was a safer alternative.”
Shapiro said the Blue Jays did not consider playing in nearby Buffalo, New York, home of their Triple-A affiliate. He also said a prospective plan to share Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, with the Rays was scrapped about three weeks ago. That plan would have required the Blue Jays to finance and build an additional locker room at Tampa Bay’s home stadium.
Buffalo could still host a taxi squad of Blue Jays players, Shapiro said.
Already high, health and safety concerns will be elevated further if the request to play in Toronto is denied and the Blue Jays end up in Dunedin.
“We’ll do so with diligence and attention to detail and do our best to keep players out of harm’s way,” Shapiro said.
Wherever the Blue Jays end up this season, there likely won’t be anyone in the stands.
“We do not expect to have fans, regardless of location,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro would not disclose details on any cases of coronavirus at the team’s spring training facility in Dunedin. All major league spring training sites were closed last week following an outbreak at the Philadelphia Phillies’ site in Clearwater, Florida, not far from Dunedin. Last Friday, the Blue Jays said a pitcher on their 40-man roster displayed symptoms of the virus.
Shapiro said the Blue Jays will continue paying their minor league players, even though they’re not currently able to play games.
“We’re committing to paying minor league players at the same rate through September 7,” he said.
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