Sports

Andrew Benintendi, Whit Merrifield among 10 unvaccinated Kansas City Royals players out for Toronto Blue Jays series

Ten Kansas City Royals players, including four of their top hitters and two of their best starting pitchers this season, will not travel to Toronto for this week’s four-game series with the Blue Jays due to not receiving the COVID-19 vaccination to have.

Vaccination requirements for crossing the border into Canada include Outfielder Andrew Benintendi, Super Utilityman Whit Merrifield, Catcher MJ Melendez, First Baseman/Outfielder Hunter Dozier, Right Hander Brad Keller, Right Hander Brady Singer, Center Fielder Michael A. Taylor, Outfielder Kyle Isbel, Reliever Dylan Coleman and Catcher Cam Gallagher.

“At the end of the day, it’s their decision,” Dayton Moore, the royals’ president of baseball operations, told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s what they choose. And we have always been an organization that promotes and encourages individual choices. Unfortunately, some of this affects the team. We’re disappointed with some of it, but we recognize that it’s part of the game and part of the world we live in. We’re just really looking forward to giving an opportunity to those players who get a chance to play in Toronto.

Players who are unvaccinated and fail to make the trip to Toronto will be placed on the suspended list and forfeit tenure and salary for the four games missed.

“It’s an individual decision,” said manager Mike Matheny. “The organization has done a really good job of bringing in professionals and experts to guide the boys through difficult conversations and then putting it in their hands to make the decisions they feel are right for them and their families are best.”

Before Kansas City, a Toronto team had missed at most four players and a total of 25 players were on the banned list for not being vaccinated.

“Right or wrong, I didn’t do it on a whim,” Merrifield said. “It’s been a long thought process because I understand what Canada has right now. That’s the only reason I would think about getting it at this point is to go to Canada. That could change later. If something happens and I happen to get on a team that has a chance to play in Canada in the postseason, maybe that will change. But sitting here now, I’m comfortable with my decision, my teammates support me, support the rest of the guys here who made that decision and that’s it.”

Benintendi is the only 2022 All-Star in the group. The Royals, with a 35-53 record after beating Detroit on Wednesday afternoon, have scouted trades in the 28-year-old, who bats at .317 and is set to face free agency this winter.

“It was a personal decision for me,” said Benintendi. “And I’ll leave it at that.”

Melendez, a rookie, faced Leadoff in the last two days when Merrifield, whose 553-game Iron Man streak ended with a toe injury, sat out. Dozier has regularly served as the Royals’ cleanup hitter. The only vaccinated outfield player in the Royals’ active roster is Edward Olivares.

Kansas City will call in reinforcements from its Triple-A and Double-A affiliates to fill out the Big League roster. The Royals’ streak in Toronto begins Thursday.

“What it’s offering now is an opportunity for some young people to come in who wouldn’t normally be here,” Matheny said. “It’s going to impact our rotation work and that’s going to be another question we’ll have to answer later. I look forward to some people coming and getting a chance.”

Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider said his team will not take Kansas City lightly.

“A bit surprising, but the rules are the rules. We live by it and the rest of the league lives by it,” Schneider said in Toronto. “Definitely not a series you’re going to take lightly as you head into intermission. They see who they have, plan accordingly, and hopefully build that two-game series [sweep] against the Phillies.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/34238893/andrew-benintendi-whit-merrifield-10-unvaccinated-kansas-city-royals-players-toronto-blue-jays-series Andrew Benintendi, Whit Merrifield among 10 unvaccinated Kansas City Royals players out for Toronto Blue Jays series

Emma Bowman

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