The Kansas City Royals will be without 10 of the 26 players on their active roster for their four-game series in Toronto due to Canadian restrictions on travelers who aren’t vaccinated against. The series begins Thursday.
“Many teams have been affected by the restrictions, though the Royals have a far bigger contingent of unvaccinated players than any other team we’ve seen to this point,” writes CBSSports.com’s Matt Snyder.
“Pretty much every team thus far that has visited the Jays in Toronto has had a set of players who haven’t gotten the vaccine and were then placed on the restricted list, but this is on another level,” Snyder continues. “In fact, only 25 players in total have been placed on the restricted list before series in Toronto for this reason so far, reports ESPN. The Royals will push that number to 35 in one fell swoop.”
Manager Mike Matheny said Wednesday the club will be without hitters Andrew Benintendi, Hunter Dozier, Cam Gallagher, Kyle Isbel, MJ Melendez, Whit Merrifield and Michael A. Taylor along with pitchers Dylan Coleman, Brad Keller and Brady Singer.
The team is set to play four games in Toronto. The 10 players will be placed on the restricted list and forfeit four days of pay and major league service time in accordance with the terms of MLB’s collective bargaining agreement.
“It’s an individual choice,” Matheny said. “The organization’s done a real good job bringing in professionals and experts to talk guys through tough conversations and then put it in their hands to make the decisions they believe is best for them and their families.”
Benintendi will lose $186,813, Merrifield $153,846, Keller $106,044 and Dozier and Taylor $98,901 each. Among the others, the lost pay for Gallagher will be $19,451, Singer $15,962, Isbel $15,426, Coleman $15,399 and Melendez $15,385.
The club will name their replacements Thursday, along with an announcement about other staff who won’t be traveling with the club.
“Now what it presents is an opportunity for some young guys to step in who wouldn’t normally be here,” Matheny said. “It will affect what we’re doing rotation-wise and that will be another question that we’ll have to answer later. I’m excited about some guys coming in and getting a chance.”
Players cited personal decisions for themselves and their families behind their reasoning to not be vaccinated.
“It was a choice I made talking with my family, talking with my wife,” Merrifield said. “I didn’t think that the risk was worth it, honestly.
“I don’t feel like COVID is a threat to me,” he added.
The unvaccinated players said they felt teammates supported their decisions.
“We’ve talked to these guys, they’re not judging us at all,” Dozier said. “They have our backs. I don’t think we’ve ever dealt with something like this, where we’re being forced to take a vaccine just to go play over in Toronto. It’s just a weird situation. It’s unfortunate.”
“(The) staff, owner, GM, everybody, it’s been really cool to see how they’re handling it,” Coleman said. “Not like forcing it. I feel like we all have our own opinion, so it’s been really good that the higher-ups respect that.”
Merrifield had the majors’ longest active games played streak at 553 before a foot injury kept him out of action Sunday. He said he might change his mind if a similar circumstance presented itself later in the year.
“That might change down the road,” he said. “If something happens and I happen to get on a team that has a chance to go play in Canada in the postseason, maybe that changes. As we sit here right now, I’m comfortable with my decision.”
John Schneider, the Blue Jays’ new manager, said his team won’t take Kansas City lightly.
“A little bit surprising, but the rules are the rules. We live by them and the rest of the league lives by them,” Schneider said in Toronto. “Definitely not a series you’re going to take lightly going into the break. You kind of see who they have, you game plan accordingly, and hopefully build off this two-game series (sweep) against the (Philadelphia) Phillies.”
Schneider was promoted from bench coach to interim manager for the remainder of the season when Toronto fired Charlie Montoyo on Wednesday.