As it always would be the case when trying to play baseball during a global pandemic, there are more questions than answers. But we do have some information on how the Blue Jays will do it from here. And what the strangest season’s accumulation that we’ve ever seen will look like.
When will training camp start? What will it involve?
The Toronto training camp has already started technically. A small group of Blue Jays players who have passed the MLB admissions protocol and produced two negative COVID-19 tests are currently free to use club facilities in Dunedin, Florida, where the team has reunited.
But many of their teammates are still awaiting clearance. While the MLB only requires one negative COVID-19 test as part of its admission protocol, all Blue Jays players must pass two before being allowed to enter training camp. This additional step was necessary to address the public health concerns of the Canadian government. And this whole test takes time.
But the club expects the majority of tests to be returned by the weekend, when the club will fly to Toronto on a private charter. The aircraft will arrive at a private extension of Pearson International Airport, where players and staff will disembark and travel directly to the Rogers Center in private buses cleaned to standards established by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Once players are on site at the Rogers Center, more formal and organized training sessions will begin. These will be staggered throughout the day to encourage physical remoteness, with the players divided into groups.
High contact surfaces – door knobs, faucets, dials, handles – will be disinfected hourly and all areas will be thoroughly cleaned daily. The club will use four different locker rooms to keep players away, with all other sinks sealed and community toiletries removed.
The batters will have access to both the home and visitor batting cages, while the pitchers will be spread over five different mounds – the play mound plus the pair in each field paddock. The Blue Jays have explored the possibility of adding temporary mounds, but club president Mark Shapiro has said the team is against it.
“I think we will have the capacity to get our job,” he said. “In particular, we consider that we are not working as a group of 60 players, but as two groups of 25 to 30 players.”
Throughout the training camp, all players and staff will live at the hotel connected to the Rogers Center in a dedicated room isolated from the general public. Hotel staff will wear masks and undergo daily health assessments and temperature tests before their shift.
Players and staff will not be allowed to leave the premises during training camp, traveling between their rooms and the stadium within the confines of the stadium. This will obviously require a high degree of discretion and discipline. But if someone were caught leaving the stadium, they could be punished under the Canadian Quarantine Act, which can result in six-figure fines or jail time.
That alone should be enough to dissuade anyone in the Blue Jays party from violating training camp rules. And Shapiro says he and Blue Jays director Ross Atkins were encouraged by the comments they received from players during the consultations as they worked to move the training camp north of the border.
“They were part of the process. We did not make the decision unilaterally. We made the decision with them, “said Shapiro of the Blue Jays players. “It was collaborative and cooperative from the start. They have been educated. There are clear sanctions in place beyond anything we would do for a quarantine violation – which has been communicated to them. But I don’t expect this to be a problem because we have been talking to them from day one and they understand their responsibility and the expectations ahead.
Will the Blue Jays play exhibition games against other MLB clubs?
The MLB allowed clubs to play up to three exhibition games late in training camps against nearby teams or their first regular season opponent. But Shapiro said the Blue Jays would drop the option, relying instead on intrasquad games played in the Toronto player pool. There is no limit to the number of intrasquad games a team can play during training camp.
Shaprio also said that the MLB is about to set its 2020 calendar and that the Blue Jays will join regardless of where the club is located. Toronto’s main options for their home games remain the Rogers Center in Toronto and the TD Ballpark in Dunedin, two facilities owned by the club, eliminating the possibility of scheduling conflicts. But for now, Toronto’s place of residence has yet to be determined.
Will any Blue Jays player or staff opt out?
So far, five MLB players have chosen to retire from the 2020 season: Mike Leake, Ryan Zimmerman, Joe Ross, Tyson Ross and Ian Desmond. Last week, Shapiro said he did not expect the Blue Jays to exercise their right to do so, and Thursday said the wait remains the same.
Of course, things can change as the training camp continues and the pandemic evolves. Staff can also opt out, as some members of the Cleveland organization have chosen to do. But Shapiro said he doesn’t expect opt-outs to be offered by Blue Jays staff either.
The Blue Jays will have a ball when they arrive on the field at the Rogers Center
July 02, 2020
How will positive COVID-19 tests be treated?
The MLB 2020 Operations Manual introduced a new term in the big baseball lexicon: the list of casualties linked to COVID-19.
A positive test for COVID-19 would obviously need to be placed on this list – but one is not necessarily required. Players may also be placed on the COVID-19-linked IL because of symptoms associated with the virus or confirmation of its exposure.
There is no minimum or maximum duration for placement on the list. But to be withdrawn, individuals must produce two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart, be feverless and without respiratory symptoms for 72 hours, perform an antibody test, have a cardiac evaluation and be considered by a committee of doctors as no longer presenting a risk of infection for others.
With nearly 2,000 players tested this week during the admissions process for training camps across the league, it is fair to expect that a large number of people will be added to the roster. When the NBA tested 344 of its players last week, 25 returned positive – an infection rate of 7.3%. It is not unreasonable to expect a similar number in MLB.
Where things get complicated is in how these cases are reported. As Brian Cashman, general manager of the New York Yankees explained earlier this week, teams were not allowed to disclose which players are on the COVID-19-linked IL because the infections are not “Employment related” as stated in the basic MLB agreement. It will be up to individual players who are positive to approve whether this information is made public or not.
Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering all the latest news with opinions and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.
But the flaw with this design – that someone, somewhere identified as MLB conceptualized its 2020 operations manual – is that clubs always advertise all players who are placed on an injured list in order to free up space on the listing. On Thursday, the Blue Jays official transactions page showed four players on the 10-day injured list (retroactive to June 30) without explanation: Jonathan Davis, Brandon Drury, Elvis Luciano and Hector Perez.
In turn, Toronto added four people to its pool of players: Bryan Baker, Patrick Kivlehan, Josh Palacios and Breyvic Valera, who was claimed for a San Diego Padres waiver. The Toronto player pool, which is capped at 60, was 58 before these transactions. Thus, at least two spots have been opened. And apart from being placed on the COVID-19 wounded list, the only way to remove a player and create space in the pool – according to the 2020 operations manual – is as follows:
For players of 40 players: exchange, request for exemption, return of selection under rule 5, release, outright assignment, designation for assignment, placement on the 60-day injured list or placement on one of the suspended , military, voluntary retirees, restricted, disqualified or inadmissible lists.
For non-aligned players of 40 players: exchange, release or placement on the military list, voluntary withdrawal, restricted, disqualified or ineligible.
Since none of the Blue Jays players who were listed on the injured list on Thursday were subject to any of the above transactions, it is fair to speculate that at least two of them have been placed on the IL linked to COVID-19, if not all four. (It should be remembered that placement on the IL associated with COVID-19 does not require a positive test.)
A similar scenario unfolded in Philadelphia on Thursday, in which four players appeared on the Phillies’ official trading page as being placed on the 10-day injured without explanation. It was later reported that the four were placed on the IL associated with COVID-19.
We imagine that situations like this will continue to occur throughout the season, as some players are placed on the list of injured or unavailable to compete for explained reasons such as fractures or muscle tension and others no. And that begs the question of whether MLB’s attempt to protect the privacy of its players actually does the opposite.
Invited to comment on the inevitable speculation about unexplained absences on Thursday, Shapiro highlighted the challenges of managing a professional baseball league during a global pandemic. The club will do everything possible to protect the privacy of its players. But he must also play by the MLB line-up rules.
“It’s a difficult environment. Not just for the media, not just for our fans, not just for our players, but also for us, ”said Shapiro. “The confidentiality and respect for the privacy of our players and the understanding of the regulations and laws that exist will govern my no comment on this subject. I think over time, players will be able to comment for themselves.
“Until then, these will be things that are going to have to be one more piece in a world we live in that is full of uncertainty – and I can’t help you more than that. Obviously, I have faced a sea of uncertainty in the past two and a half months and this is just another issue that we all face. “