KANSAS CITY, Mo. ( Associated Press) The Kansas City Royals will be without 10 of the 26 players on their active roster for their upcoming trip to Toronto due to Canadian restrictions on travelers who are not vaccinated against COVID-19.
Manager Mike Matheny said Wednesday that 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 will play four games in Toronto. The 10 players will be placed on the restricted list and will lose four days of pay and time in the Major Leagues under the terms of the MLB collective bargaining agreement.
“It’s an individual choice,” Matheny said. “The organization has done a very good job of bringing in professionals and experts to talk to kids about difficult conversations and then putting them in their hands to make the decisions they think are 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, Gallagher’s missed pay will be $19,451, Singer $15,962, Isbel $15,426, Coleman $15,399 and Melendez $15,385.
The club will name their replacements on Thursday, along with an announcement about other staff members who will not be traveling with the club.
“Now what it presents is an opportunity for some young people to step in who wouldn’t normally be here,” Matheny said. “It will affect what we’re doing rotation-wise and that’s another question we’ll have to answer later. I’m excited for some guys to come in and have a chance.”
Players cited personal decisions for themselves and their families behind their reasoning for not getting vaccinated.
“It was a decision that I made talking to my family, talking to my wife,” Merrifield said. “Honestly, I didn’t think it was worth the risk.
“I don’t feel like COVID is a threat to me,” he added.
The unvaccinated players said they felt their teammates supported their decisions.
“We’ve talked to these guys, they don’t judge us at all,” Dozier said. “They have our backs. I don’t think we’ve ever dealt with something like this, where we’re forced to get vaccinated just to go play in Toronto. It’s just a weird situation. It’s unfortunate.”
“(The) staff, the owner, the general manager, everybody, it’s been great to see how they’re handling it,” Coleman said. “It’s 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 longest active game streak in the majors at 553 before a foot injury sidelined him Sunday. He said he might change his mind if a similar circumstance arose later in the year.
“That could change in the future,” he said. “If something happens and I join a team that gets a chance to play in Canada in the postseason, maybe that will change. As we sit here right now, I feel comfortable with my decision.”
John Schneider, the Blue Jays’ new manager, said his team will not take Kansas City lightly.
“A little surprising, but the rules are the rules. We live for them and the rest of the league lives for them,” Schneider said in Toronto. “It’s definitely not a series you’re going to take lightly before the break. You kind of see who they have, plan the game accordingly and hopefully build this two-game series (sweep) against the Phillies.”
Schneider was promoted from bench coach to interim manager for the rest of the season when Toronto fired Charlie Montoyo on Wednesday.