Whit Merrifield said he is vaccinated for COVID-19 and will be cleared to play for Toronto when the Blue Jays return to Canada.
Merrifield was acquired in a trade with Kansas City on Tuesday for two minor-leaguers. The two-time all-star was in the starting lineup in centre field for his first game with his new team Thursday night at Minnesota.
“I’ll be in Toronto when the team gets to Toronto,” Merrifield said Thursday, avoiding saying when he received the vaccine.
Merrifield was among 10 players on the Royals who were unvaccinated last month, preventing them from making their trip to Toronto. When asked about his decision, Merrifield drew the ire of Kansas City fans by saying: “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.”
“It was something that I probably could have handled a little better,” Merrifield said of his comments in July. “But what’s happened, happened. I’m excited to be a Blue Jay. Excited to get to Toronto and play in the Rogers Centre as my home.”
Toronto leads the AL wild-card standings as it tries to make the postseason for the second time in three years. The next home game for the Blue Jays is Aug. 12 against Cleveland.
Toronto manager John Schneider said Merrifield will play almost every day in a variety of positions, most likely second base and center.
“It’s a luxury to have, to have that kind of guy where you can literally put anywhere and feel comfortable about it,” Schneider said. “The days that he’s not starting, he’s probably going to play. I think with having a bench like this now, it allows us to be a little bit more aggressive in some certain spots that we haven’t been earlier in the year. An asset to have, for sure.”
Right-hander Tyler Mahle was to make his Twins’ debut on Friday night when the American League Central leaders oppose the Blue Jays in Minneapolis. Right-hander Jose Berrios (8-4, 4.96), obtained by Toronto from Minnesota in a 2021 deadline deal, will make his fourth career start against the Twins on Friday. He is 2-1 with a 3.66 ERA against them.
Berrios picked up the win in a June 4 start against the Twins in Toronto when he allowed two runs on three hits over seven innings while setting a career high with 13 strikeouts. He subsequently fanned 13 Philadelphia Phillies on July 12.
Mahle (5-7, 4.40 ERA), who hasn’t faced the Blue Jays in his career, was part of a key deadline trade with the Cincinnati Reds.
The Associated Press with a report from Reuters
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