Friday's MLB: Blue Jays get approval to return to Canada on July 30

Associated Press

Toronto — The Toronto Blue Jays were given approval from the Canadian government on Friday for an exemption on border restrictions that would allow them to play in Canada later this month, Canada's immigration minister said.

The Blue Jays asked the federal government to allow them to play at Rogers Centre starting July 30 and wanted a response by Friday.

FILE - Members of the Toronto Blue Jays and the Detroit Tigers lineup before an opening day baseball game at Rogers Centre in Toronto, in this Thursday, March 28, 2019, file photo.

“Following a careful review by public health officials at every level of government, a National Interest Exemption will permit the Toronto Blue Jays to return to Toronto and play home games at the Rogers Centre,” Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said in a statement.

Mendicino said the decision was made in conjunction with the Public Health Agency of Canada, with the approval of provincial and municipal public health officials.

“The plan contains significant measures to ensure the safety of players, personnel and the public. This begins with pre- and post-arrival testing of everyone, and additional testing four times a week for unvaccinated individuals," Mendicino said.

“It also includes significant limitations on unvaccinated individuals, who will have to undergo a modified quarantine, not be permitted to go anywhere but the hotel and stadium and have no interaction with the general public.”

He said there will also be a designated compliance officer for each team.

“Anyone who breaches these stringent conditions will have their exemptions revoked and may also be subject to fines or prosecution under the Quarantine Act,” he said.

The Blue Jays played home games during the shortened 2020 season in Buffalo, New York, and started this season in Dunedin, Florida, before moving to Buffalo. The Canadian government didn’t allow the team to play in Toronto because of the risk of spreading COVID-19, citing frequent travel required in the U.S. during a baseball season.

The U.S.-Canada border remains closed to nonessential travel, though Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this week those restrictions could end in mid-August.

Major League Baseball requires an exemption for unvaccinated players and team staff to play games in Canada. As of this month, fully vaccinated players who have valid work permits are no longer required to complete a 14-day quarantine upon entry into Canada, but some teams have players who are not vaccinated. A quarantine exemption and protocols around that need to be approved.

Talks between the Blue Jays and federal government accelerated over the last day.

The team described Friday as a breaking point, noting the club has a long homestand starting July 30 that represents over 25% of the remaining games at a crucial juncture competitively. The Blue Jays entered Friday tied for third in the AL East.

They require lead time in order to move what they need from Buffalo and to prepare for Toronto operations, including ticket sales, although the team has already begun preparations at Rogers Centre, according to two team officials who spoke the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Toronto last played at 49,000-capacity Rogers Centre on Sept. 29, 2019, an 8-3 win over Tampa Bay.

Blue Jays ace Hyun-Jin Ryu signed with the team before the 2020 season and has yet to pitch a game in Toronto.

The club noted in a news release this week that MLB has high vaccination rates, with more than 85% of players and personnel fully vaccinated. The club said vaccinated players and staff on the home and visiting teams will have to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, with no quarantine requirement, and that fully vaccinated individuals will undergo weekly testing.

The team said unvaccinated and partially vaccinated people on the home and visiting teams will adhere to a modified quarantine for their first 14 days in Canada. They will be permitted to leave their residence only to participate in baseball activities at Rogers Centre.

More of Monday's MLB

► 3 men arrested near All-Star Game face federal gun charges

Three men arrested with more than a dozen weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition at a Denver hotel near the site of Major League Baseball's All-Star Game have been charged with federal firearms crimes, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Friday.

The number of weapons found May 9 near the event and a request by one of the men for a room with a balcony raised concerns among police of a possible mass shooting but the FBI soon said it had no reason to believe the arrests were connected to terrorism or that there was a threat to the game.

Federal prosecutors reiterated that in announcing that Richard Platt, Ricardo Rodriguez and Gabriel Rodriguez had each been charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Each has multiple previous felony convictions, according to court documents.

Gabriel Rodriguez is also charged with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

All three appeared on Friday in federal court in Denver, where Assistant U.S. Attorney Rajiv Mohan asked that they be detained while the cases against them proceed. Hearings were scheduled next week to determine if they will continue to be held.

Attorneys for each of them declined to comment on the allegations after their hearings.

According to their arrest affidavits, Platt and Ricardo Rodriguez told investigators they were at the hotel to buy and sell guns although Platt also told investigators that Ricardo Rodriguez had talked about killing people and putting people “down," accusing Ricardo Rodriguez of pulling a gun on him. Gabriel Rodriguez told authorities Platt asked him to come there to sell him methamphetamine, according to the documents.

Both Gabriel and Ricardo Rodriguez told Denver media in interviews from jail earlier this week that they did not plan any violence against people gathered for the game or other events associated with it.

“I was trying to get there and sell some dope and get out, and the next thing I know the SWAT team and everybody on me,” Gabriel Rodriguez told KCNC-TV in one interview.

A woman who was also arrested at the hotel, whom Platt said was his girlfriend, according to the affidavits, was not charged in federal court.

► Nats' Starlin Castro placed on administrative leave

Washington — Washington Nationals infielder Starlin Castro was placed on administrative leave Friday by Major League Baseball under its domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy.

The leave was imposed under the policy adopted by MLB and the players’ union in 2015 and can be the initial step leading to a longer suspension. The administrative leave — during which a player is paid but cannot play for up to seven days — has been extended for players under the policy in the past while MLB investigates an allegation.

Washington Nationals' Starlin Castro hits a two-RBI single during the second inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres, Wednesday, July 7, 2021, in San Diego.

Nationals manager Dave Martinez said he learned of the situation Thursday night.

“What I can tell you about myself and this organization, as you know, we do not tolerate any kind of domestic abuse," Martinez said. “Speaking for myself, I think it’s awful.”

Washington faces San Diego this weekend in the first series out of the All-Star break.

Castro was placed on the restricted list June 16 due to what Martinez at the time said were “family matters.” The 31-year-old infielder was reinstated two days later and pinch-hit in a game that night against the New York Mets.

“This is a totally different situation,” Martinez said. "If I would have known about this a month ago, we would have had a different conversation. I can tell you that.”

Castro is hitting .283 with three home runs and 38 RBIs in 87 games so far this season. He is in his second season with the Nationals after stints with the Cubs, Yankees and Marlins.

The Nationals reinstated infielder Jordy Mercer from the 10-day injured list and he was in the lineup at third base against the Padres.

“Obviously, this is disturbing news, but we can’t let this deter what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to accomplish, and that’s to win another championship," said Martinez, who spoke to the team about Castro before the game. "We need to stay positive."

Also Friday, the Nationals agreed to terms on a major league contract with catcher René Rivera. Rivera, 37, hit .236 with two homers and nine RBIs in 21 games with the Cleveland Indians this season.

Washington catchers Yan Gomes (oblique strain) and Alex Avila (bilateral calf strain) are on the 10-day injured list.

► Mets star Lindor injured during at-bat against Pirates

New York Mets star shortstop Francisco Lindor left Friday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the fifth inning with soreness on his right side.

Lindor winced after grounding out to second base. He took a few steps out of the batter’s box but then peeled off toward the Mets’ dugout on the first base side.

Accompanied by an athletic trainer, Lindor then headed down the tunnel toward the clubhouse.

Lindor was replaced by Luis Guillorme in the bottom of the fifth after going 1 for 3.

In his first season with the Mets after being acquired from the Cleveland Indians in a January trade, Lindor is hitting .228 with 11 home runs and eight stolen bases in 88 games. He agreed to a $341 million, 10-year contract just before opening day.

Lindor was a four-time All-Star with Cleveland while winning two Gold Gloves and two Silver Slugger awards.

Beset by a long list of injuries all season, the NL East-leading Mets just got third baseman J.D. Davis back from the 60-day IL on Friday. Davis wasn't in the starting lineup, but his return gave New York all its projected regulars available for the first time in months.