5:01pm: The Blue Jays have asked the Canadian government to allow them to play their season in Toronto, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweets (1, 2). Doing so would also enable them to conduct their spring training there. The government should provide an answer within the next two days, per Rosenthal. If it’s a no, the Jays would hold spring training in Dunedin, Fla., with Buffalo as an alternate site.
2:44pm: Multiple Blue Jays players and staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi reports (Twitter thread). The positive tests are tied to the circumstances that led to the shutdown of the Jays’ spring complex in Dunedin, Fla. last week. The closure of the facility was brought about by a 40-man player displaying symptoms after interacting with Phillies players who eventually tested positive. The exact number of positive tests isn’t publicly known, though The Athletic’s Kaitlyn McGrath tweets that “several” members of the organization tested positive.
The Blue Jays’ circumstances are particularly unique. As MLB’s only Canadian team, it’s not yet clear just where the Jays will host their games. Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau recently extended the U.S./Canada border closure for non-essential travel until July 21. That means that while players can travel into the United States, they wouldn’t be able to travel back into Canada without going through a 14-day quarantine process. If those restrictions are relaxed after July 21, the Jays could conceivably still host games at the Rogers Centre (dependent on additional regulations of course), but they’d surely need more notice than a mere two to three days’ advance notice. MLB currently hopes to start the season on July 23 or 24.
However, while most would assume that the league has been in contact with the city of Toronto or the province of Ontario about the possibility of staging games there, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Dr. David Williams, the chief medical officer of Ontario, told TSN’s Scott Mitchell just yesterday (Twitter link):
The Major League Baseball proposal, I’ve seen it and read it. It deals with a lot of aspects there. It doesn’t mention anything about travel to Canada at this time, so if there was some interest in that we’d have to get a proposal from them to see how they would undertake the uniqueness of bringing the team, and if they’ve thought about bringing other teams (to Toronto), how they would work with that up until such time the federal government reduces or eliminates their quarantine law. But that’s still in place at this time. We have ways that we worked with the NHL to consider that. I have not seen anything specific with Major League Baseball at this time.
Perhaps that’s telling, then, that the league’s ultimate plan for the Jays is for games to be staged in the United States — at least in the season’s early stages. Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal has previously suggested that sharing Tropicana Field with the Rays could be a possibility, and Davidi reported recently that there’s been work at TD Ballpark, the Jays’ Dunedin stadium, to bring the lighting up to MLB’s standards for night games. Of course, the recent positive tests in Dunedin aren’t a good first step toward staging regular-season games there.
Meanwhile, agent Rafa Nieves, who represents Jays outfielder Teoscar Hernandez, tells Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes that Hernandez has been told by the team that playing games at the Blue Jays’ Triple-A site in Buffalo, N.Y., is also an option (Twitter link). Both Davidi and Rojas (via Nieves) indicate that the Blue Jays’ hope is understandably to play home games at the Rogers Centre, although at this point it’s clear that there’s no logistical plan in place just yet.