Tag Archives: Jays

Everything you need to know about the Blue Jays this year

This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

The Toronto Blue Jays open the 2021 baseball season Thursday at 1 p.m. ET at Yankee Stadium. Here’s a quick catchup on Canada’s only major-league team:

They’re not coming back to Canada any time soon

The Jays announced Wednesday that they’re extending their stay in Dunedin, Fla., through at least their May 14-24 homestand. They still want to return to Toronto at some point this year. But if Canadian government pandemic restrictions don’t soften, they’ll continue playing their home games in the United States — either in Dunedin or, if Florida gets too hot and humid, in Buffalo.

2 key new players should bolster the lineup

Toronto’s big off-season catch was slugging centre-fielder George Springer, who it lured from Houston with the richest contract ($ 150 million US over six years) in team history.

The 31-year-old leadoff man won the World Series MVP award in 2017 and averaged 31 home runs in the last four full seasons. But he’s out for a bit because of an oblique strain.

WATCH | CBC Sports’ Jamie Strashin joins John Northcott to preview Jays’ season: 

Jamie Strashin of CBC Sports joins John Northcott on CBC News Network to talk about the kick-off to the Toronto Blue Jays season today. 3:18

New second baseman Marcus Semien, 30, will be in the opening day lineup and looking to recapture his form from 2019, when he hit 33 homers for Oakland and finished third in American League MVP voting.

Springer and Semien join a talented young team

Corner outfielders Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Teoscar Hernández are both coming off excellent seasons and are still on the right side of 30. Ideally, 22-year-old Alejandro Kirk can soon take over at catcher after hitting well in his cameo appearance last year.

But the Jays’ future — and present — hinges on their three core young guys.


A big year by a smaller Vladimir Guerrero Jr. would be huge for the Jays. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Shortstop Bo Bichette, 23, should be a line-drive machine again after a knee injury sapped him of his power last year. Cavan Biggio, 25, is a good hitter who can steal bases and play almost anywhere on the field.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., though, could ultimately be the make-or-break guy. The 22-year-old hasn’t lived up to the massive hype yet. But he’s still very young, very talented and he’s in better shape now. If Guerrero becomes the all-star-calibre slugger everyone expects, he can push the Jays to the next level.

The pitching looks a little shaky

Opening day starter Hyun Jin Ryu is a legit ace who finished third in American League Cy Young voting last year. Behind him are a lot of journeymen and question marks.

The Jays hope prospect Nate Pearson can become the No. 2 guy after he showed flashes as a rookie, but he’s hurt again (strained groin).

The bullpen is pretty deep, but Toronto’s gamble on closer Kirby Yates went bust. The one-time 41-save man suffered a season-ending elbow injury in spring training, leaving the job up to a committee that could be led by Canadian righty Jordan Romano.

Another post-season trip is in reach

Last year’s appearance by the Jays in the post-season was a product of the field temporarily expanding from five teams to eight in each league.

The added randomness of a 60-game season may have helped, too, as the Jays gave up more runs than they scored.

But they’re a good, young team that made some solid additions, and there are objective reasons to think they can make the playoffs in a normal season.

Fangraphs’ projection model has Toronto finishing 88-74 — seven games behind the Yankees in the AL East, but good enough to claim the top AL wild-card spot from a tightly packed handful of contenders.

The Jays are also trendy in the betting market, which has them as the No. 3 favourite to win the AL pennant, behind the Yankees and White Sox.

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CBC | Sports News

The Blue Jays are back and looking like a contender

This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

Spring* is here

*OK, not actually. Most of Canada is still in winter’s grip. But there are signs it’s loosening. One of those comes to us from Dunedin, Fla., where the Toronto Blue Jays are now holding full-squad spring training workouts. Seems like a good time for a quick catchup on the Jays as they prepare for opening day on April 1 at Yankee Stadium:

They won’t be back in Canada for a while.

The Jays announced last week that, due to ongoing health/travel restrictions, they’ll remain in Dunedin for at least their first two homestands of the regular season. That means they’ll be playing out of their spring-training stadium until May 14 at the earliest.

Team president Mark Shapiro said the Jays want to return to Toronto “as soon as it is safe to do so.” But there’s no timetable for the move and it’ll probably depend on the Canadian government easing its restrictions on cross-border travel. So there’s a good chance the Jays remain in Florida (or at least in the United States) past mid-May. Once the summer heat/humidity/thunderstorms bear down on central Florida, the Jays could head north to Buffalo, where they played their home games last season.

There are some new faces in camp.

The big one is centre-fielder George Springer, who was lured from Houston with the richest contract ($ 150 million US over six years) in Blue Jays history. Springer, 31, was one of the top free agents on the market. He won the World Series MVP award in 2017, averaged 31 home runs in the last four full seasons and homered at even higher rate in pandemic-shortened 2020.

Toronto also signed Marcus Semien to be its new second baseman. He played shortstop for Oakland, where he hit 39 home runs in 2019 and finished third in the American League MVP vote. Semien was awful at the plate last year, but the Jays gave him a one-year, $ 18-million deal that should motivate him to rebound.

Toronto took a similar approach to trying to upgrade its pitching behind ace Hyun-jin Ryu, rolling the dice on one-year deals with several players. Those include lefty starter Steven Matz, who’s coming off an atrocious season for the Mets, and potential closer Kirby Yates, who led the majors with 41 saves in 2019 for San Diego but had his 2020 ruined by an elbow injury.

But it’s the “old” faces who will make or break this team.

Quotation marks around “old” because we’re talking about the Jays’ young core. Shortstop Bo Bichette, who turns 23 next week, hopes to bounce back after a knee injury cost him a month last season and sapped him of his power once he returned. Twenty-five-year-old Swiss Army knife Cavan Biggio will probably spend more time at third base with Semien taking over at second. Corner outfielders Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Teoscar Hernández are both coming off excellent seasons and are still on the right side of 30. Twenty-one-year-old catcher Alejandro Kirk showed promise last year, and 24-year-old pitcher Nate Pearson could be a godsend for the thin rotation if he taps into his potential.

But all eyes, again, will be on Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The almost-22-year-old slugger has shown flashes, but he still hasn’t lived up the hype accompanying his arrival in the majors two years ago. Guerrero appears to be in much better shape this year (with the requisite Instagram workout pics to prove it) but the pressure is on him to start producing like the all-star everyone figured he’d be.

The Jays can build on last year.

Their surprise playoff appearance was more a product of the shortened season and expanded post-season field than the actual quality of the roster. But Toronto is a good, young team that made some solid additions and should challenge for a spot in the back-to-normal playoffs.

It’ll be tough to top the Yankees in the AL East, but here’s a warm thought to help you through the last few weeks of winter: Fangraphs’ respected projection system has Toronto finishing second in the division at 88-74 — ahead of the improving Red Sox and declining AL-champion Rays. According to the model, that would tie the Jays for the second-best record in the AL and would land them a wild-card playoff spot for the second year in a row.


Shortstop Bo Bichette looks to bounce back after a knee injury sidelined him for a month last season. (Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press)

Quickly…

The Scotties Tournament of Hearts is heating up. It’s the final day of the opening round, and only eight teams will advance to the championship pool, which starts tomorrow. Defending champion Kerri Einarson’s Team Canada (7-0) will be there, and so will Ontario’s Rachel Homan (6-1). They’d already clinched spots heading into their Pool A showdown at 3:30 p.m. ET, which is a rematch of last year’s final. Pool B was more crowded at the top, with Saskatchewan’s Sherry Anderson, six-time champ Jennifer Jones of Manitoba and Quebec’s Laurie St-Georges tied at 5-2 after the morning draw. The wild-card team skipped by Chelsea Carey was just behind at 5-3. Read more about today’s results here. Watch last night’s episode of That Curling Show, which featured a celebration of the 15th anniversary of Brad Gushue’s Olympic gold medal, here. And watch tonight’s show live at 7:30 p.m. ET on the CBC Olympics Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages.

Oklahoma City’s Canadians had a big night. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored a career-high 42 points and Lu Dort hit the game-winning three at the buzzer in the Thunder’s 102-99 victory over San Antonio last night. Dort finished with 16 points and is now averaging 12.6 on the season — up nearly six points from his rookie year. Gilgeous-Alexander is seizing the opportunity to be OKC’s go-to guy after the Thunder traded away future hall-of-famer Chris Paul in the off-season. The third-year guard is averaging 33 points over his last three games and now ranks 20th in NBA scoring at 23.5 per game. He’s also averaging 6.4 assists and 5.3 rebounds.

The Canadian women’s soccer team ended its comeback tournament on a sour note. Playing for the first time since the pandemic hit nearly a year ago, Canada scored only one goal and won only one of its three matches at the SheBelieves Cup in Orlando. After an encouraging 1-0 loss to the juggernaut United States, Canada beat Argentina 1-0 before getting blanked 2-0 by Brazil yesterday. Seven key Canadian players were absent from the mini-tournament, so it’s hard to draw any conclusions about the team’s chances of winning a third consecutive Olympic medal this summer. We might learn more when Canada plays its next match, an away friendly vs. No. 6-ranked England, on April 13. Read more about Canada’s performance at the SheBelieves Cup here.

The Canadian Elite Basketball League will tip off its third season in June. The start was pushed back from mid-May and the number of games cut from 20 to 14 for each team in hopes that fans will be allowed in arenas when the season opens. Last summer, the seven-team CEBL became one of the first North American leagues to return after the pandemic shutdown when it played a month-long tournament in St. Catharines, Ont., to crown a 2020 champion. This year, seven consecutive Saturday games will be broadcast on the CBC TV network, starting with the June 5 season opener between defending champion Edmonton and Fraser Valley. Games will also be streamed live on CBC Gem, CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app. Read more about the CEBL’s 2021 season here.

Coming up from CBC Sports

Alpine skiing: Watch a World Cup women’s downhill race in Italy live Friday at 5:45 a.m. ET here.

CBC Sports U: Anyone pursuing a career in sports media might want to check out this free, interactive virtual summit on March 3. CBC Sports is bringing together some well-known sports-media personalities to give students an inside look at their experiences and an opportunity to ask questions. Get more details and sign up here.

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Toronto FC set to join Raptors, Jays down south to open season

Toronto FC will open the 2021 regular season in Florida due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.

Tampa has been mentioned as a possible home. The MLS club also has ties to Orlando, having held training camp there in the past.

“We are preparing to open the MLS regular season in Florida, just finalizing our location,” team president Bill Manning said in a text to The Canadian Press.

“Reality is we are preparing to open in Florida as it seems unrealistic we’ll be able to host at home in April. If the government opens things up for us we would immediately pivot back to BMO [Field] but for now we’re preparing to start down south.”

The regular season is scheduled to kick off April 17.

TFC won’t be the only Toronto team in Florida. The Raptors are set to play the entire NBA season in Tampa while the Blue Jays announced this week they will play their first two homestands of the season in their spring-training home of Dunedin, just west of Tampa.

The Jays will review the situation after that, with a return to Buffalo, N.Y. (where they played most of their home games in 2020) a possible next step if coming back to Toronto remains out of the question.

TFC opened camp under the bubble Wednesday at its north Toronto training centre. The league granted TFC permission to start early to prepare for the Canadian Championship final against Hamilton’s Forge FC, a matchup whose date has yet to be announced.

The winner will advance to play Mexico’s Club Leon on April 7 in the first leg of a round-of-16 series in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, CONCACAF’s flagship club competition.

TFC played just four games at BMO Field last year, finishing out the season in East Hartford, Conn. Pandemic-related border restrictions also forced Vancouver and Montreal to move, to Portland and Harrison, N.J, respectively.

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Why George Springer is such a big get for the Blue Jays

This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

Here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:

The Blue Jays gave out their richest contract ever

Toronto has lured centre-fielder George Springer away from the Houston Astros with a six-year agreement reportedly worth $ 150 million US. Here are the key things to know about Springer and the deal, which is awaiting a physical to become official:

This is the largest contract in Blue Jays history. The only other one to hit nine figures was the seven-year, $ 126-million extension signed by Vernon Wells in December 2006. The previous Jays record for a free agent was the $ 82 million given to Canadian catcher Russell Martin before the 2015 season. At $ 25 million per year, Springer’s average annual pay eclipses that of pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu, who signed for $ 20 million a year for four years last off-season.

But this isn’t the biggest free-agent signing in Jays history. In terms of sheer “Holy s—! I gotta tell everyone I know!” impact, that would be the Roger Clemens deal in December of ’96. The four-year, $ 40-million pact worked out pretty well too, at least to start. Clemens won the Cy Young in his only two seasons with the Jays before demanding a trade. The signings of Jack Morris (two years, $ 10.85 million before the ’92 season) and Paul Molitor (three years, $ 13 million prior to ’93) were also very big at the time and helped propel the Jays to World Series titles.

Springer was one of the top free agents on the market. This list on MLB.com ranked him third, behind Philly catcher J.T. Realmuto and Cincy pitcher Trevor Bauer. Not the greatest class, but Toronto can say it got the best non-battery player available.

Springer is a very good player. His best years were 2017 and ’19, when he averaged about 36 homers and an OPS+ of 145 — meaning his on-base-plus-slugging percentage was 45 per cent better than the average hitter’s in his league when adjusted for ballpark. He hit well in the shortened 2020 season too, smashing 14 homers in 51 games with an OPS+ of 140. Springer was named the MVP of the 2017 World Series after hitting five home runs in seven games vs. the Dodgers. The Astros won that year with the help of their infamous signal-stealing scheme that allowed them to tip off their hitters about what kind of pitch was coming.

He’s a bit old, though. Six years is a lot to commit to a 31-year-old, so the Jays might end up regretting the last few years of the deal. But that’s the price teams usually have to pay to land a player of this calibre.

The Springer signing adds excitement to an already-promising Jays team. Last year’s post-season appearance may have been a pandemic-induced fluke — as much a product of the shortened season and expanded playoff field as the actual skill on Toronto’s roster. A (presumed) return to a full 162-game regular season would probably benefit stronger-looking AL East rivals New York and Tampa Bay, and another 16-team playoff tournament is unlikely. But baseball seems interested in expanding from the old 10-team field, which would give the Jays more hope of making it through their tough division. And Springer joins a talented lineup of hitters whose returning core — Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, Teoscar Hernández, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. — are all currently between the ages of 22 and 28. If the pitching can just not be a trainwreck again (prospect Nate Pearson might help there) this team has a lot of upside.


The Blue Jays’ prized free agent signing joins a budding young core ready to take the next step. (Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press)

Quickly…

The Calgary ski and snowboard bubble burst. The plan, announced two weeks ago, was to hold the world championships for freestyle skiing and snowboarding there in February and March. Some World Cup competitions were also part of the pitch, which was awaiting approval from various authorities. But the world governing body for skiing and snowboarding decided today to pull the plug on the idea, with the backing of the Canadian federations for those sports. Read more about the decision here.

The NHL postponed two more Hurricanes games. Five Carolina players have been placed on the league’s COVID-19 protocol list, resulting in the postponement of last night’s game at Nashville and now a pair of home dates vs. Florida on Thursday and Saturday. These are the first three games to be postponed since the NHL season began. Dallas’ first few games were postponed before the season started. Read more about the Carolina outbreak here.

Marielle Thompson won another medal. Today’s silver in Sweden is the 2014 Olympic ski cross champion’s 45th career World Cup podium spot. This one came in a “sprint” event, where the course is shorter than the standard one. Read more about it and watch highlights here.

Tiger Woods needed another back surgery. This makes five, and it’ll keep the 45-year-old out for at least the PGA Tour’s West Coast Swing, which starts this week and runs through Feb. 21. The operation was to remove a disc fragment that Woods said caused him pain during the event he played with his 11-year-old son last month. Tiger’s friend and fellow tour star Rory McIlroy said he thinks Woods will be out of action “for the next couple of months” but will return in time for the April 8-11 Masters “if not before that.” Read more about Tiger’s latest setback here.

Also…

Philip Rivers retired.

He never made it to a Super Bowl, and he didn’t make it look pretty, but the fiery Alabaman owns one of the best quarterback resumés ever. Rivers’ awful-looking, shot put-style throwing motion should not have worked in the NFL. But he overcame it (and then some) with supreme accuracy and a savant’s understanding of how to attack defences. He spent 17 years in the NFL (all but the last one with the Chargers) and ranks eighth in wins and fifth in completions, yards passing and touchdown passes.

Two other numbers essential to the Rivers story: nine (how many kids he has) and zero (how many games he missed after becoming an NFL starter in 2006). Rivers played his only conference championship game on a torn ACL on Jan. 20, 2008 — one of the reasons he chose today to announce his retirement with a charmingly down-home statement that included the word “dadgummit.” Read more about Rivers’ career here.

And finally…

Donald Trump isn’t the only polarizing Republican we’ll be hearing less from now.

As the 45th President left the White House today, Kelly Loeffler also appeared set to vacate her most public-facing roles. The pro-Trump U.S. Senator recently lost her seat to Raphael Warnock in one of the two high-profile Georgia run-offs that resulted in Democrats grabbing control of the Senate. As Warnock was sworn in today, a sale of the Atlanta Dream was being finalized that would presumably see Loeffler give up her 49 per cent stake in the WNBA team.

If that goes through, it will fulfill the wish of the WNBA players who openly campaigned for Warnock and called for Loeffler to sell her piece of the Dream after she criticized the league for embracing the Black Lives Matter movement. Read more about Loeffler’s potential departure from the league here.

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Blue Jays unceremoniously swept out of AL wild-card series by Rays

The Toronto Blue Jays’ brief playoff appearance came to an end in blowout fashion on Wednesday evening.

The Tampa Bay Rays scored seven runs on Blue Jays ace Hyun-Jin Ryu, chasing him in the second inning of an 8-2 rout at Tropicana Field.

Mike Zunino hit a two-run homer and Hunter Renfroe belted a grand slam as the Rays advanced by winning two straight games in the best-of-three series.

Danny Jansen was one of the few bright spots for the visitors with two solo homers.

Tampa Bay will play Cleveland or New York in the American League Division Series. The Yankees took a 1-0 lead into Game 2 on Wednesday night.

The Blue Jays benefitted from Major League Baseball’s expanded 2020 post-season structure by taking the eighth and final seed in the American League. The team’s young core made strides this season in order to qualify for the playoffs but were overmatched upon arrival.

WATCH | Analyst Mike Wilner breaks down Blue Jays vs. Rays:

Blue Jays analyst Mike Wilner joins CBC News Network to discuss the Blue Jays first playoff appearance since 2016. 6:22

Tampa Bay had control in a 3-1 Game 1 victory a day earlier despite managing just four hits. The Rays had four hits in the opening inning of Game 2 alone.

Ryu was out of sorts from the start. His fastball didn’t have its usual zip and his control was suspect.

The Rays took advantage with Manuel Margot driving in Randy Arozarena with an RBI single to open the scoring in the first inning. Ryu fanned Willy Adames with the bases loaded to limit the damage to one run.

Kevin Kiermaier led off the second with a single and scored when Zunino went deep on an 0-2 pitch. Ryu gave up a double and a two-out walk later in the frame and should have escaped when Margot hit a ground ball to Bo Bichette.


However the Toronto shortstop bobbled it for his second error of the game, leaving the bases loaded. Renfroe made the Blue Jays pay with a no-doubt grand slam.

That was more than enough cushion for Tampa Bay starter Tyler Glasnow, who opened the game by striking out Cavan Biggio on three pitches. The hard-throwing right-hander needed just seven pitches to retire the side.


Glasnow struck out eight over six innings, giving up six hits, two earned runs and a walk. Ryu lasted one and two-thirds  innings and allowed eight hits, three earned runs, four unearned runs and one walk while striking out two.

Toronto rookie Nate Pearson struck out five of the six batters he faced over two clean innings. The Rays outhit Toronto 12-7.

Tampa Bay entered Game 2 with a 7-4 edge in head-to-head matchups with Blue Jays this year although Toronto had outscored the Rays 49-47 overall.

Ryu had an extra day of rest after the Blue Jays gave Matt Shoemaker the surprise start in Game 1. Shoemaker and Robbie Ray were effective over six innings but the decision left Taijuan Walker — the team’s clear No. 2 starter — on the outside looking in.

Travis Shaw started at first base Wednesday while Alejandro Kirk, the Game 1 designated hitter, returned to the bench. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who misplayed a foul pop-up in the opener, handled DH duties.

Tampa Bay made it to the ALDS last year before being eliminated by the Houston Astros. The Blue Jays were last in the post-season in 2016.

The top-seeded Rays were 40-20 in the regular season. The Blue Jays were 32-28.

WATCH | Blue Jays clinch 1st post-season appearance since 2016:

For the first time in four years, the Toronto Blue Jays will play in the MLB postseason. The team of young stars surprised many in the baseball world by clinching a playoff berth with a victory over the New York Yankees. 1:52

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CBC | Sports News

Blue Jays manager says weekend series against Phillies is postponed

In a regular season that has had its share of uncertainty, hurdles and challenges, the Toronto Blue Jays were dealt another curveball Thursday when their weekend series in Philadelphia was postponed after the Phillies reported that two staff members had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo confirmed the postponement on a video call before Thursday afternoon’s game in Washington. Montoyo said the team plans to stay in the U.S. capital until new travel plans can be finalized.

“We’ve got to deal with it, it is what it is,” Montoyo said. “Hopefully MLB works through this. We’ve got games coming up. But that’s all I know right now.”

Montoyo said the Blue Jays will ask the Nationals if they can continue to work out at Nationals Park until next steps are finalized by Major League Baseball. Toronto has an off-day Monday and a three-game series at Atlanta is scheduled to begin Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, the Phillies announced that all activity at Citizens Bank Park has been cancelled until further notice.

Tests conducted Wednesday returned a positive result for a member of the coaching staff and a member of the home clubhouse staff, the Phillies said. All players tested negative.

WATCH | Virus continues to cause concern amid MLB’s return:

Less than a week after Major League Baseball returned, a COVID-19 outbreak among the Miami Marlins is raising alarm bells about MLB’s strategy, along with accusations that the league dropped the ball by allowing teams to travel in the first place. 2:02

The Blue Jays were scheduled to play a doubleheader Saturday and a game Sunday at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies haven’t been in action since Monday’s discovery of a coronavirus outbreak among the Miami Marlins, who played a season-opening series in Philadelphia last weekend.

Another player with the Miami Marlins — who recently played at Philadelphia — tested positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, bringing their total outbreak to 17 players, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Two Marlins staff members have also tested positive.

The Phillies’ four-game, home-and-home series against the New York Yankees was postponed this week.

WATCH | MLB’s rocky road to resumption of play:

Major League Baseball is back without fans in the stands, but while the return of baseball may be a comforting distraction for a country almost completely overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, politics now permeate every aspect of the game in the U.S. 2:07

The Toronto-Philadelphia series was originally set to begin Friday, but the opener was pushed back to Saturday afternoon.

MLB said Wednesday the series would go ahead after Phillies players and on-field staff tested negative for the coronavirus for a second straight day. A message left Thursday afternoon with an MLB spokesperson was not immediately returned.

Toronto was scheduled to be the home team in Philadelphia. The Blue Jays are playing home games in their opposition’s parks until their temporary home in Buffalo, N.Y., is ready on Aug. 11.

In Thursday’s series finale against the Nationals, the Blue Jays are set to be the home team for the second straight game.

Earlier this month, the Blue Jays made a proposal to play home games at Toronto’s Rogers Centre during the shortened 60-game season but the federal government shut down the plan due to concerns about COVID-19.

Several Blue Jays players and staff members at the team’s spring-training facility in Dunedin, Fla., reportedly tested positive for the virus last month.

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CBC | Sports News

Blue Jays will play ‘majority’ of home games in Buffalo

The Toronto Blue Jays will play most of their home games at their top minor-league affiliate’s stadium in Buffalo, N.Y., this season.

The Blue Jays announced the decision Friday, hours before their season opener at Tampa Bay.

The team’s home opener was scheduled for Wednesday against the Washington Nationals, but that game and the game the following day both will be played in the U.S. capital with the Jays as the home team. Toronto plays two road games against Washington on Monday and Tuesday.

Toronto’s first game in Buffalo will either be July 31 against the Philadelphia Phillies or Aug. 11 against the Miami Marlins.


Canada’s lone Major League Baseball team was forced to find a new home for 2020 after the federal government last week rejected the club’s proposal for the Blue Jays and visiting teams to stay in the hotel inside Rogers Centre and never leave the facility during stints in Toronto.

The Blue Jays would have needed an exception from the federal government for the traditional 14-day quarantine to play in Toronto during the coronavirus pandemic.

Team shut out of Pittsburgh, considered Dunedin

On a video conference with reporters last Sunday, reliever Anthony Bass said the players expressed a desire to the team’s front office to play home games at a major-league stadium this season.

But the state of Pennsylvania also didn’t clear the Blue Jays to play home games in Pittsburgh.

Before the federal government’s decision, the Blue Jays were considering their spring-training facility in Dunedin, Fla., and Buffalo.

But surging COVID-19 rates in Florida and a lack of space and lighting concerns in Buffalo raised questions about both of those options, leading the Blue Jays to look at other major-league sites.

Several Blue Jays players and staff members reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 last month while working out in Dunedin.


In the end, the Blue Jays couldn’t find another major-league stadium, and settled on Buffalo.

Opened in 1988, Sahlen Field has a capacity of 16,600. But no fans will be in attendance this season.

The Buffalo Bisons became the Blue Jays’ triple-A affiliate for the start of the 2013 season. Minor-league baseball has been cancelled this year, which created the opening in Buffalo.

Sahlen Field is in downtown Buffalo, minutes from the Peace Bridge connecting the city to Fort Erie, Ont.

WATCH | MLB adjusts to the ‘new normal’:

Major League Baseball is back without fans in the stands, but while the return of baseball may be a comforting distraction for a country almost completely overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, politics now permeate every aspect of the game in the U.S. 2:07

Several of the top young Blue Jays have spent time playing for the Bisons, including Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Nate Pearson.

The federal government did agree to the modified quarantine at the Rogers Centre hotel for the Jays’ summer training camp, but said concerns about regular cross-border travel along with road games in hard-hit American states made the regular-season plan a no-go.

It won’t be the first time a Canadian MLB team will play an extended stretch of home games outside the country.

The Montreal Expos, owned by the league at the time, played 22 home games a season in Puerto Rico in 2003 and 2004 before relocating to Washington.

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Blue Jays’ bid to play home games in Pittsburgh for upcoming season rejected

The state of Pennsylvania won’t allow the Toronto Blue Jays to play at PNC Park in Pittsburgh amid the coronavirus pandemic, health officials announced Wednesday, becoming the latest jurisdiction to say no to the team as the baseball season begins this week.

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

The Blue Jays and Pirates had been waiting to see if they got permission from the state to proceed with the plan to have PNC Park fill in for the Rogers Centre.

“In recent weeks, we have seen a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in southwestern Pennsylvania,” Dr. Rachel Levine, the state’s secretary of health, said in a statement.

“To add travellers to this region for any reason, including for professional sports events, risks residents, visitors and members of both teams. We know that this virus does not discriminate and can even make professional athletes very sick. We are committed to protecting the health and well-being of all Pennsylvanians.”

Canada has flattened the epidemic curve. But the number of new confirmed cases of the coronavirus reported daily by Allegheny County — which includes Pittsburgh and 1.2 million residents — has increased tenfold in the last two weeks, compared with the two weeks in June before what officials there called an alarming spike in cases.

WATCH | Blue Jays’ Toronto plan denied by federal government:

CBC News’ David Cochrane discusses the reasons why the federal government rejected the Toronto Blue Jays’ request to play regular season baseball games in Toronto. 7:04

Health officials have blamed the spread primarily on bars and restaurants that were ignoring physical-distancing orders, as well as residents returning from travel to virus hot spots. To clamp down on the spread, health officials have issued a cascade of orders shutting down bars and restaurants, curtailing dine-in service and recommending that people returning from certain states self-isolate at home for 14 days.

The agreement to share the stadium with the Pirates was pending state approval, according to two officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity earlier Wednesday because they were not authorized to speak ahead of the government decision.

Pirates president Travis Williams said the organization worked closely with city officials to get a proposal ready for the state to review. The state ultimately decided to pass.

“This is an unprecedented situation and, therefore, we understand and support Gov. Tom Wolf’s decision,” Williams said in a statement. “We are in agreement that the safety and health of those in our region must remain paramount. We are confident that the great people within the Blue Jays organization, working with Major League Baseball, will secure another option very soon.”

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said this week his team had more than five contingency plans for a home stadium and was in talks with other teams. Blue Jays outfielder Randal Grichuk said Tuesday the players were told Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore is a possibility.

Atkins said if the Blue Jays can’t find a major league park, their Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo, N.Y., 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. The players have said they strongly prefer to play in a major league park.

The team had been considering playing home games at its training facility in Dunedin, Fla., but that is among the states that are virus hot spots.

If a major league stadium can’t be found, the Blue Jays could be facing a 60-game road trip, playing opposing teams in their own ballparks instead of a home park.

“Of course it is difficult because there are still uncertainties. We just have to remember that we’re going to grind for two months instead of a regular, 162-game season. If we can rally together and work as a team, I think we should get by fine,” pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu said.

“This is something that we’ve never had to deal with in the past. Honestly, this season is all about new experiences and overcoming them. It’s going to be difficult but I do trust my teammates. I think we’ll have to rally around, just because it’s an unprecedented season.”

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Pittsburgh Blue Jays? That’s 1 option for Toronto’s baseball team

This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

Here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:

The Blue Jays are looking for a home

There seems to be some confusion out there about what happened with the Jays over the last few days and what it means. So here it is:

On Saturday, the Canadian government officially rejected the Blue Jays’ request to play their home games for the upcoming shortened season at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. This came a couple of days after a loosely worded TSN report saying the team had received “government approval” to host games at its home stadium. That report gave some people the impression that it was a done deal. But in fact, the Jays only had approval from the Ontario government, which was never in doubt. It was the federal government that still needed to give the green light — and ultimately decided not to.

Another source of confusion is why Canada won’t let the Jays play at home when it’s allowing the NHL to hold its playoffs in Edmonton and Toronto. The difference is that the NHL is setting up so-called “bubble” environments where players and staff are isolated from the general public and don’t move around. Major League Baseball, on the other hand, is having its teams play out of their home stadiums. That means the Jays and visiting teams from various American cities would have been coming in and out of Toronto over the next couple of months. That was the deal-breaker for the federal government.

So where do the Jays go now? Two places immediately came to mind: Dunedin, Fla., and Buffalo, N.Y. Both cities would allow the Jays to set up shop there, and both have their advantages, but both have drawbacks too. Dunedin is where the team’s spring-training headquarters are located, so the facility is familiar and has more big-league-calibre amenities than your typical minor-league park. But Florida is a notorious COVID-19 hotspot at the moment.

Buffalo has a low infection rate, is less than two hours down the highway from Toronto, and is home to the Jays’ triple-A affiliate. But its stadium is bush-league. The field itself is mostly fine, but major leaguers would not find the back-of-the-house stuff (clubhouses, indoor batting cages, etc.) up to their standards. Both Buffalo’s and Dunedin’s stadiums would also need lighting upgrades in order to host major-league night games. And there’s not much time to get that done.

So now the Jays are considering a stadium-sharing arrangement with another major-league team. Or teams. Judging by comments made to reporters over the weekend, this is what the players seem to want. Ideally, the Jays would play somewhere with a low infection rate that’s located in the eastern United States (all their games this season are against AL East or NL East teams).

It’s also important that the Jays’ schedule matches up well with anyone they’re sharing a stadium with. They can’t both be playing at home at the same time. For all these reasons, the Jays are reportedly eyeing Pittsburgh’s PNC Park (one of the best-looking ballparks in the game). But they’d still need to line up another stadium or two for the dates where their home games overlap with the Pirates’. Another option is hopping around between several parks, using whatever is available when the main tenant is on the road.

Whatever the Jays decide, they need to do it soon. Their first (and last) two exhibition games are Tuesday and Wednesday at Fenway Park. They open the regular season Friday night with the first of three games at Tampa Bay, followed by a pair at Washington, then the “home” opener on July 29. The clock’s ticking. Read more about the Blue Jays’ options here.

WATCH | Blue Jays’ Toronto plan denied by federal government:

CBC News’ David Cochrane discusses the reasons why the federal government rejected the Toronto Blue Jays’ request to play regular season baseball games in Toronto. 7:04

The NFL is not special

While the pandemic battered nearly every sports league in the world — cancelled games, months-long hiatuses, millions in lost revenue — the richest one remained largely untouched. Save for having to scale down its annual draft spectacle and nix off-season minicamps, the NFL has barely sacrificed anything.

This was due almost entirely to lucky timing — the Super Bowl happened about a month before the pandemic really hit North America hard, and the 2020 season doesn’t open until early September. But, given the NFL’s vast resources and the fortune at stake in making sure the games kick off as scheduled, it seemed reasonable to assume the people in charge would parlay their stroke of good fortune into developing and executing the best possible plan for playing sports in the time of COVID-19.

Instead, it looks like they squandered much of their head start. Training camps are set to open in about a week, and the league and the players are still battling over return-to-play health protocols and economic issues — just like the NHL, NBA and MLB before them. Meanwhile, the NFL still hasn’t ordered teams to play in empty stadiums — the only sensible-looking option for months now. Many teams are still clinging to the hope of partial-capacity crowds, which seems overly optimistic at best.

Odds are the NFL season will kick off as scheduled on Sept. 10. Too many people in the U.S. want it too badly to expect otherwise. But it’s clear now that this league is not the well-oiled machine many assumed (or hoped) it was. Read more about the players’ concerns and how they voiced them with a Twitter blitz here.

Quickly…

Patrice Bergeron is up for the Selke Trophy for the ninth consecutive time. The Bruins star has won the award, for the best defensive forward in the NHL, four times during that span — most recently in 2017. The other two finalists this year are St. Louis’ Ryan O’Reilly, who won the Selke last year, and Philadelphia’s Sean Couturier, who has never won it. The shortlist for the Norris Trophy for top defenceman was also revealed today: Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman, Washington’s John Carlson and Nashville’s Roman Josi. This is Carlson’s first nomination, and he appears to be the front-runner after leading all defencemen with 75 points in 69 games. Read more about the Norris and Selke finalists here.

Mackenzie Hughes is on a roll. The Canadian golfer finished tied for third a few weeks ago, and yesterday he tied for sixth at the Jack Nicklaus-hosted Memorial Tournament — one of the better events on the PGA Tour. That performance, which included a 67-foot putt that Hughes drained for a birdie, earned him a spot in this year’s U.S. Open. It also lifted Hughes to a career-best 75th in the world rankings. Spain’s Jon Rahm is the new No. 1 after winning the Memorial by three strokes. Read more about Hughes and watch him sink that long putt here.

Max Domi rejoined the Canadiens. The 25-year-old forward, who has Type 1 diabetes, was given an extra week to decide whether to participate in the NHL’s restart. Domi joined Montreal’s training camp today, indicating he’s decided to play. Domi had 17 goals and 44 points in 71 regular-season games for the Habs, who open a best-of-five playoff series vs. Pittsburgh on Aug. 1. Read more about Domi’s return here.

And in case you missed it…

The National Women’s Soccer League tournament got wild. The North Carolina Courage came into the Challenge Cup as favourites to win their third consecutive NWSL title, and they breezed through the preliminary stage with a perfect 4-0-0 record. The tournament’s only unbeaten team wasn’t expected to have much trouble with Friday’s quarter-final matchup against last-place Portland Thorns FC — the only winless team. But Morgan Weaver scored in the 68th minute to lift Portland to a stunning 1-0 upset that eliminated the defending champs. And that was just one of the quarter-final surprises: No. 7 seed Sky Blue FC and the 6th-seeded Chicago Red Stars joined No. 8 Portland in the semifinals. The only favourite to advance was the 4th-seeded Houston Dash, which beat 5th-seeded Utah. Adding to the drama, the Houston, Chicago and Sky Blue wins all came via penalty shootout. The semifinal matchups (Portland vs. Houston, Sky Blue vs. Chicago) are both Wednesday, and the final is Sunday.

You’re up to speed. Get The Buzzer in your inbox every weekday by subscribing below.

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Blue Jays could share MLB ballpark with another team for 60-game season

Toronto Blue Jays reliever Anthony Bass doesn’t want to settle on using a minor-league field for a home ballpark this season.

And the team’s front office seems to agree.

Bass, who joined the Blue Jays off waivers from the Seattle Mariners in October, says general manager Ross Atkins has told the team they’d prefer to set up home base in a big-league stadium rather than using their triple-A field in Buffalo, N.Y.

“I got a chance to talk with Ross yesterday … and I just said: ‘Look, we want to play in a major-league ballpark, we feel like that’s the best opportunity for us.’ And he agreed,” Bass said on a video call with reporters Sunday.

“He said: ‘I listen to you guys loud and clear. And that’s what we’re going to do for you because that’s what the team wants.”‘

WATCH | Government rejects Jays’ plan to play at Rogers Centre:

CBC News’ David Cochrane discusses the reasons why the federal government rejected the Toronto Blue Jays’ request to play regular season baseball games in Toronto. 7:04

The Canadian government denied the Blue Jays’ request for permission to play home games at Toronto’s Rogers Centre — where they’ve been training for the last two weeks — saying it’s not safe for players to constantly travel over the Canada-U.S. border during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Blue Jays and teams coming into Toronto for road games would have needed special permission from the government to waive the mandatory 14-day self-isolation period for anyone crossing the border for non-essential reasons.

Team was ‘surprised’ by goverment’s decision

The federal government’s decision came Saturday, less than a week before the start of the 60-game MLB season. The Blue Jays open against the Rays in Tampa Bay on July 24 and their home opener is set for five days later against Washington.

Bass said the team was “definitely surprised” when told the would need to find a new home.

“We were disappointed initially, but at the same time we respect the Canadian government’s decision,” Bass said. “We understand what’s going on globally. And with that being said, our focus in our direction was we need to put ourselves in the best situation to win. … And it felt like that was pretty much echoed throughout the clubhouse that we want to be in a major-league ballpark, wherever that is.”

Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro said Saturday that the team has spent more time examining Buffalo in recent days but that the stadium has infrastructure challenges.

Minor-league fields aren’t always equipped with proper behind-the-scenes resources — like not enough batting cages for hitters, for example — and they tend to have smaller clubhouses.

But finding a big-league park to play out of would bring its own challenges with the Blue Jays having to share a facility with another team.

While Bass acknowledged there could be downsides to not having a true home stadium, he said the benefits of a major-league park outweigh those, and that the team is “willing to make some sacrifices.”

‘It doesn’t make a difference because it’s a baseball field’

Outfielder Teoscar Hernandez, meanwhile, says that while he’d prefer a major-league field, it doesn’t matter to him where the Blue Jays end up playing their home games.

“It doesn’t make a difference because it’s a baseball field,” he said. “You’re not gonna get the beautiful things they have at major league fields (at) some minor-league field, but for me, it’s gonna be the same.”

Manager Charlie Montoyo says the Blue Jays will be ready for action this week regardless of where they’ll be playing.

Toronto has a pair of pre-season games in Boston before travelling to Tampa, and Montoyo said being able to train in Toronto has ensured his team is — relatively — healthy heading into the season.

Several Blue Jays players and staff members reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 last month while working out at their spring-training facility in Dunedin, Fla.

“Of course, it’s a lot better to play (home games) in Toronto … to be (in) our home ballpark, but that’s not gonna happen,” Montoyo said. “So we’re not gonna use it as a built-in excuse. Wherever we go, we’re gonna have to play to win, wherever that is.”

Bass, who has a young daughter in a high-risk category for a bad COVID-19 outcome, says the location of Toronto’s home field matters both in terms of how ready it is for major-league games and how safe it is.

While earlier reports had suggested the Blue Jays were looking into sharing Tropicana Field with the Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla., Bass said the team would prefer to not be in a COVID “hotspot” like Florida, which reported 10,328 COVID-19 cases Saturday.

“We want to be where it’s safe — a place in the United States where cases are going down, or they’re very low,” said Bass, who added his family won’t be with him this season regardless of where they play.

“So that’s definitely a concern of ours.”

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