Blue Jays execs inform team home games could be played in Baltimore, Pittsburgh

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said the team has more than five contingency plans and was in talks with other clubs. He has declined to name them.

Toronto upends Boston in exhibition game at Fenway Park ahead of Friday opener

Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Randal Grichuk fields a ground ball during full squad workouts at the club's Dunedin, Fla., complex in February. Grichuk says the front office has informed players the team may host games in Pittsburgh or Baltimore this season. (Steve Nesius/The Canadian Press)

The Blue Jays' front office has told its players that Pittsburgh and Baltimore are possibilities for where the team will hold home games this year after Canada's government barred the club from playing in Toronto amid the coronavirus pandemic, outfielder Randal Grichuk said Tuesday.

Canada denied the Blue Jays' request to play at Rogers Centre because the regular-season schedule would require frequent travel back and forth from the United States, where COVID-19 cases are surging. The other 29 major league teams plan to play the pandemic-shortened, 60-game season in their home ballparks, without spectators.

Toronto begins the season at Tampa Bay on Friday and is scheduled to play its first home game on July 29 against the defending champion Washington Nationals.

Grichuk said the players want to play in a major league stadium but have also been told their Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo, N.Y., is a possibility.

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"We've heard Buffalo. We're heard Baltimore possibly. We've heard Pittsburgh possibly," Grichuk said before a exhibition game in Boston.

"To this moment I've heard not a definite place to play yet. It's kind of still up in the air. Which is crazy this close to opening the day. Luckily we start on the road. But yeah, that's what we're hearing. Possibility Pittsburgh or Baltimore. Worst case, Buffalo."

Grichuk said the players want the amenities that come with a major league ballpark such as the hot and cold tub and big league level weight and training rooms.

"If we have to go [to Buffalo] we'd go there obviously, but we would love to be in a big league ballpark and have all that that comes with that," he said.

"It's going to be a messed up year all around. Do I think that would will make things tougher, I do. But it's something we got to roll with this year and hopefully things get back to normal in 2021."

Pirates president Travis Williams confirmed the talks with the Blue Jays on Monday and sounded ready to welcome the club if it could be done safely amid the pandemic.

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said the team has more than five contingency plans and was in talks with other clubs. He has declined to name them.

Atkins said if the Blue Jays can't find a major league park, Buffalo would be their most likely site for home games.

The team had been considering playing home games at its spring training facility in Dunedin, Fla., but that is among the states that are virus hot spots.

Jays topple Red Sox

Blue Jays outfielder Derek Fisher hit two home runs as Toronto rallied for an 8-6 win over the Boston Red Sox in the exhibition opener for both teams on Tuesday.

Fisher's second homer, a two-run shot off Ryan Brasier in the ninth, broke a 6-6 tie.

The Jays tied it earlier in the ninth on an errant pickoff attempt at first, allowing Rowdy Tellez to score from third following his leadoff double.

Rafael Dolis picked up the save for Toronto.

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Blue Jays starter Nate Pearson was roughed up in the first inning.

Pearson, considered one of the top prospects in baseball, settled down after giving up four runs in the first. The right-hander didn't allow another run before exiting with two out in the fourth.

Competing for a spot in the Blue Jays rotation, Pearson gave up a three-run home run to Mitch Moreland in the first. The frame ended with just two out when Pearson reached his pitch limit for the inning.

Blue Jays left-hander Ryan Borucki, also competing for a starting spot, gave up two runs in 2 2/3 innings of relief. The scoring came on a J.D. Martinez two-run homer in the fifth.

Tellez also homered for the Blue Jays.

The teams meet again on Wednesday night in Boston before the Blue Jays travel to Tampa Bay for their season opener on Friday.

With files from The Canadian Press

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