What the surprise schedule disruption means for the Blue Jays weekend

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TORONTO – In theory, Matt Shoemaker was supposed to spend his Saturday afternoon on the mound at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

Although if we are specific the departure was really supposed to be on Friday. And the game – a date with the Blue Jays – would ideally have been in Toronto, or maybe Pittsburgh or even Baltimore. But no matter when or where exactly, Shoemaker was hoping to throw somewhere.

Instead, he found himself in Washington training at Nationals Park on Saturday after the Blue Jays’ games against the Phillies were postponed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. He’s now getting ready to start Tuesday’s game against the Braves, but after a few crazy days of baseball it’s clear that there are no more guarantees.

“Hectic to say the least,” Shoemaker said of his past 72 hours. “Decisions as to whether or not we play games, whether or not they are postponed are beyond our control, so we just have to keep doing that day in and day out. It’s frustrating to say the least, but we just stay mentally prepared.

The Blue Jays did not report any new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, but their uncertain existence continued as news of positive tests, postponements and withdrawals circulated on a busy afternoon for MLB.

Two Cardinals players have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the league, and a third could also test positive based on rapid test results. This led to the postponement of Saturday’s Cardinals-Brewers game and meant only 24 of 30 teams would play for the second day in a row. Shortly after the game was postponed, Brewers center fielder Lorenzo Cain announced his decision to retire from the season altogether.

Later in the afternoon, Commissioner Rob Manfred declared his intention to continue playing even if the players remain positive and the adjournments sow confusion.

“We’re playing,” Manfred told ESPN. “The players have to be better, but I’m not a general let go and there’s no reason to stop now. We must have been fluid, but it’s manageable.

For their part, the Blue Jays have regular team-wide discussions about the importance of limiting contact with the outside world. That means more team hotel meals, for example – “just those little things that help minimize risk,” as Shoemaker explains.

Given the numbers of COVID-19 in hot spots such as Florida, careful behavior reduces risk rather than eliminating it. But the Blue Jays still remind their players to follow MLB protocols even if they are no longer tied to the team hotel like they were during training camp in Toronto.

“We do it every day,” said director Charlie Montoyo. “Just because we do it doesn’t mean someone can’t test positive. When you move from hotel to hotel, things can happen, but we really do it every day. ”

The positive tests that led to the closure of the Blue Jays plant in Dunedin, Florida at the end of June is a recent reminder that circumstances can quickly worsen. But the current environment around the team is “extremely safe” for Shoemaker, and from his perspective, the Blue Jays players are doing their part to slow the spread of the virus.

“Let’s say guys go out to clubs or bars, it’s irresponsible to say the least,” Shoemaker said. “We have guys who don’t do that which is great from a team perspective. That’s why I really like this group of guys. We know we want to play baseball.

In these uncertain circumstances, Montoyo wouldn’t blame any of his players for deciding to step down, but so far no Blue Jays have approached their manager about the possibility. Montoyo still has a lot to figure out between the lines, however, and the field work continued in Saturday practice when the Blue Jays attempted to “get as close to the speed of the game as possible.”

Center fielder Randal Grichuk was slated for hitting against live shots, and his back is progressing well enough that Montoyo is waiting for him in the lineup for their next game on Tuesday. Outfielder Derek Fisher faced a less certain fate as the left quadriceps that forced him out of Thursday’s game earlier remains sore.

As for the Blue Jays’ pitching staff, Sam Gaviglio was dropped from the roster after two tough outings in which his average fastball was only 87.6 mph. The team now decides s ‘he will stay with the Blue Jays in their taxi squad or if he will head to the alternative training site in Rochester. And then there’s Shoemaker, who now has to cross the line between staying sharp and overworking himself.

“It’s definitely a mental and physical battle,” he says. “For newbies, we have our routines, we love our routines, we know what works for us… so definitely when there are little hiccups it’s not fun.

Without a doubt, games are better than training for players and fans. But Shoemaker waited more than a year between starts before making his debut against the Rays last weekend. If anyone has the capacity to manage some free time, it’s probably him.



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