Blue Jays get to work at Toronto summer camp with safety measures in place

TORONTO – Pitching coach Pete Walker wore a mask as he watched Matt Shoemaker and Trent Thornton throw bullpens, a smiling Bo Bichette tamed his trademark flow beneath a black headband, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., got some BP rips in against coach John Schneider.

Pandemic safety measures aside, the second day of Toronto Blue Jays workouts at their Rogers Centre home Tuesday looked a lot like any other typical day at the ballpark.

Ace lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu, wearing a mask, ran in the outfield before throwing off flat ground, Travis Shaw got his swings in at the plate and took some grounders at third, while Teoscar Hernandez grinned and played along as Caleb Joseph delivered another of his air-drum displays.

The images, part of a three-minute clip pack distributed by the Blue Jays, were the public’s only tiny window into the happenings at the dome, as the club decided again to not make any coaches or players available to media.

Manager Charlie Montoyo, also wearing a mask as he oversaw the workouts, is slated to participate in a conference call Wednesday that should illuminate what the Blue Jays have been up to since arriving, and how they’ll prepare for an opening day that’s only 2½ weeks away.

Also appearing in the clips were Danny Jansen, who sported a face covering while he was in the bullpen, Ken Giles, Rowdy Tellez, who like Guerrero appeared to take part in a live batting practice session, Joe Panik and Santiago Espinal.

Hitting coach Guillermo Martinez, as he stood behind the batting cage, and third-base coach Luis Rivera, as he hit some grounders, also sported masks.

The Blue Jays arrived in Toronto on Sunday night after completing their intake process in Dunedin, Fla., shifting their training camp north after obtaining a special exemption from the federal government late last week.

To satisfy quarantine restrictions, the club is holing up at the dome and attached hotel as part of a modified quarantine plan. The Blue Jays hope that plan will form the framework of a protocol that will allow them to stage their 30 regular-season games in Toronto, although the frequent back-and-forth to the United States, where COVID-19 cases continue to rise at alarming rates, may present an insurmountable hurdle.

Major League Baseball’s issues with reporting test results within the planned 24-48-hour window further complicates matters, as the club’s pitch to public health officials is dependent on having proof that players coming into the country are free of the virus.

Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro said last week that if Rogers Centre isn’t an option for the regular season, “the most likely scenario is that we’d be at TD Ballpark (in Dunedin), it’s what we’ve been planning all along.”

He added that the Blue Jays intended to examine other options this week, but that he didn’t “want to overstate the looking at all the other alternatives. I’m just being open and transparent that we will do that before we just make the decision to take it back to TD Ballpark.”

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

It’s believed that one of those alternatives will be Buffalo’s Sahlen Field, home to the triple-A affiliate Bisons. The Blue Jays hope to use the facility as their Alternative Training Site but are expected to re-examine the possibility of hosting games there in case the situation in Florida deteriorates further.

The Blue Jays had an outbreak at their Dunedin facility at the end of June and had another player test positive during the intake process, forcing a handful of players and staff that had direct contact with him to hang back in Florida.

Any player infected with COVID-19 must produce two negative tests before being eligible to return, according to MLB’s 2020 Operations Manual, although under certain circumstances that’s not necessarily the case.

The Blue Jays open the home portion of their schedule with a two-game series against the defending-champion Washington Nationals on July 29, followed by a three-game set with the Philadelphia Phillies.