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 COVID-19.
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 their stadium this week. The postponement will give Toronto a four-day break ahead of a three-game series starting Tuesday in Atlanta.
“In this clubhouse we’ve got a lot of focused guys here,” said Blue Jays reliever Jordan Romano. “We’re just really trying to focus on what we can control and not letting the outside distractions get in the way of us performing.”
Canada’s lone MLB team has had to adjust plans on a regular basis in recent weeks.
In late June, several Blue Jays players and staff members at the team’s spring-training facility in Dunedin, Fla., reportedly tested positive for the virus. That left the team shorthanded for part of its summer training camp in Toronto.
The federal government shut down a team proposal to play home games at Rogers Centre because of fears about teams travelling back and forth to the U.S., where COVID-19 numbers are high.
That decision set off a search to find a home ballpark. After coming close to securing a big-league facility, the team eventually settled on Buffalo, but necessary upgrades at Sahlen Field have pushed the start date to Aug. 11.
Now after a decent opening week to the truncated 60-game campaign, the Blue Jays must deal with another speed bump. The team hopes the unexpected layoff doesn’t stifle players’ routines or affect the club’s rhythm.
“All you can do is stay positive,” Montoyo said. “That’s all you can do because negative stuff doesn’t help anybody.”
Earlier Thursday, the Phillies announced that all activity at Citizens Bank Park has been cancelled until further notice.
Tests conducted a day earlier 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.
The Blue Jays’ original plan was to take a two-hour bus ride to Philadelphia on Thursday night and hold an optional workout Friday. A doubleheader was set for Saturday ahead of Sunday’s series finale.
“They’re handling it great,” Montoyo said of his players. “I’m proud of this team because it hasn’t been easy.”
Romano, a native of Markham, Ont., said the layoff shouldn’t pose much of a problem.
“I consider it a smaller challenge,” he said. “I think we can still hopefully practise, pitchers throw bullpens. I think we would still be ready to roll after this four-day break.”
The Phillies haven’t played since Monday’s discovery of a coronavirus outbreak among the Miami Marlins, who played a season-opening series in Philadelphia last weekend.
The Toronto-Philadelphia series was originally set to begin Friday, but Major League Baseball pushed the opener back a day.
MLB said Wednesday that the Toronto-Philadelphia series would go ahead after Phillies players and on-field staff tested negative for COVID-19 for a second straight day. But late Thursday afternoon, MLB confirmed the games would be postponed “out of an abundance of caution.”
“Major League Baseball will co-ordinate with health experts and the Major League Baseball Players Association in planning for the Phillies’ resumption of play, and will provide further scheduling updates as necessary,” MLB said.
With files from The Associated Press.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 30, 2020.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press