Good news! The Blue Jays have reached the 85 percent vaccination threshold that will allow the team to now operate with relaxed COVID-19 protocols. MLB said on Friday that 85.2 percent of Tier 1 individuals (players, managers, coaches, trainers) have now been vaccinated at least once.
Now, the big question, of course, is what does this mean for the Blue Jays returning to Canada? The team’s original plans were to be in Buffalo until at least July 4 but it was announced on Monday that they’ll extend that to at least July 21.
Mark Shapiro spoke to media last week and said that getting not just the Blue Jays but the other teams they’d be hosting across the Canada-U.S. border is still going to be a significant hurdle…
What I’ve come to recognize is, until the border is open any proposal would have to deal with that and create a set of circumstances that allow cross-border travel for players, families, and visiting teams. That is not an easy thing to do. It’s not impossible, but it’s not an easy thing to do. I guess what I would suggest to you is that until the border is open there are significant challenges with us returning to Toronto to play.
The Canadian government has allowed an exemption for the Montreal Canadiens, who advanced to the semi-finals of the playoffs on Monday, to travel back and forth from Canada to the United States so they can play at home. The teams involved will have to enter the country through a private jet, everyone will be subject to daily COVID testing, and will operate in a “modified quarantine bubble” during the series.
The difference in the Blue Jays’ situation is that they’ll be hosting a handful of different teams throughout the season, so it’s obviously much more difficult to make some kind of exemption regarding travelling across the border. Further, it’ll be a challenge to get all of the players, on both the Blue Jays and on visiting teams, to accept doing a bubble at the Rogers Centre Hotel when they’ve been moving around pretty much normally throughout the season so far.
I mean, doing a bubble for a week-long playoff series is one thing, doing so for a few months is another. It seems we’re moving in the right direction but the Blue Jays won’t be back in Toronto until the border is open, which likely won’t be happening for a while.
— Ben Wagner (@benwag247) June 6, 2021
Here’s the mid-June George Springer highlight we were all hoping to see back in January when he was signed! The $150 million man appears close to returning from injury, as he sprinted and ran the bases in Buffalo on Sunday. This time around, Springer will do a rehab assignment with the Thunder-Bisons, so, barring some kind of setback, he should be back with the Blue Jays in a week or so.
Other injury updates…
- Cavan Biggio is currently doing his rehab assignment in Triple-A. In his first game on Sunday, he played seven innings at third base and went 1-for-4 with a homer.
- Ryan Borucki’s forearm injury has dragged on longer than expected but the lefty is currently pain-free and he’s going to begin a throwing program this week. There isn’t yet a timetable for his return.
- Thomas Hatch made his 2021 debut with the Thunder-Bisons on May 20 but suffered a setback after the outing. On Sunday, he pitched again for the first time in over two weeks, tossing two scoreless innings with a strikeout and a walk. The plan for Hatch is to build him up as a starter.
- Patrick Murphy has now pitched two outings in Triple-A, going three-and-one-third with two earned runs on six hits and one walk with five strikeouts. He was placed on the 60-day Injured List at the end of spring training so he’s eligible to be activated whenever now. If he can string together some quality outings in Triple-A, I imagine he’ll be up with the big league club soon.
- Danny Jansen exited Sunday’s game against Houston with a mild hamstring strain. We don’t yet know if Jansen will need a stint on the Injured List. If he does, Riley Adams, who’s gone 15-for-60 with six homers in Triple-A would surely get a call-up.
Speaking of catchers, the Gabriel Moreno hype is starting to build…
Updated BA Top 100 prospects list: 14. Martin, 36. Moreno, 37. Manoah, 38. Pearson, 52. SWR, 56. Groshans, 63. Kirk, 82. Martinez
— Clint (@_ClintB_) June 7, 2021
Baseball America’s newest Top 100 ranking has Moreno at No. 36, which is a significant jump given the fact he didn’t crack the winter list back in January. Moreno is absolutely killing Double-A right now, slashing a .367/.429/.608 line with four homers, seven walks, and 18 strikeouts over 91 plate appearances. He boasts the highest wRC+ of any player 21 years old or under at the level right now.
Back on Saturday, Moreno smashed a homer off of the hotel in New Hampshire, becoming the first Fisher Cat since Vlad Jr. to do so…
GABRIEL MORENO!!! OFF THE HOTEL!!
First Fisher Cat to do it since Vlad Jr. in 2018.
— New Hampshire Fisher Cats (@FisherCats) June 5, 2021
Still, I would expect to see Adams to get a look with the Blue Jays before Moreno does. It’s a strange situation given the Blue Jays have five catchers on their 40-man roster and while Moreno might be the most talented of the bunch, he’s sort of stuck in Double-A. The only way to advance him to Triple-A (save for more injuries) is if he plays in a tandem with Adams, which obviously isn’t ideal for either prospect.
Finally, over at Sportsnet, Arden Zwelling took a look at the Pittsburgh Pirates as a sensible trading partner for the Blue Jays. The connection is clear given Pittsburgh’s general manager Ben Cherington spent a few years with the Blue Jays as the vice-president of baseball operations. The Pirates, of course, are complete ass, so they’re in a position to trade away players for futures, and Cherington obviously knows Toronto’s system very well.
Zwelling mentions catcher Jacob Stallings, left-handed bat Adam Frazier, and reliever Richard Rodriguez as players who might interest the Blue Jays.