Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the Blue Jays will play most of their home games in Buffalo, New York, which is where their Triple-A affiliate is located. Cole Burston/The Canadian Press via AP

TORONTO — The displaced Toronto Blue Jays will play in a minor league ballpark in Buffalo, New York, this year after being turned down by the Canadian government and blocked from playing in Pittsburgh by the state of Pennsylvania.

The Blue Jays’ home for the season will be Sahlen Field, where the Triple-A affiliate Buffalo Bisons usually play.

The team had been looking for a major league ballpark for its home games after the Canadian government wouldn’t allow it to play in Toronto, but the search was unsuccessful. Pennsylvania health officials rejected a deal to play in Pittsburgh because of rising COVID-19 cases there.

The team also held talks with the Baltimore Orioles about Camden Yards, but the Blue Jays didn’t want to wait on Maryland officials.

“Baltimore never got to a situation to where we were denied,” Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro said. ”At some point, continuing to explore and look at an option like Baltimore was not going to be a risk we could take. That risk of being turned down certainly existed. And so we obviously had to make a decision knowing we had a very good alternative, albeit not a major league one.”

The Blue Jays open the season at Tampa Bay. Their first scheduled home series, against the Washington Nationals on July 29 and 30, will now also be on the road to accommodate infrastructure modifications at Sahlen Field to help it meet Major League Baseball standards and COVID-19 safety requirements.

The Blue Jays’ first game in Buffalo will be either July 31 against the Philadelphia Phillies or Aug. 11 against the Miami Marlins.

The team considered playing home games at its training facility in Dunedin, Florida, but that is among the states that are virus hot spots.

Health officials in Canada and Pennsylvania were worried about the frequent travel by players throughout the U.S., one of the countries hit hardest by the pandemic.

General Manager Ross Atkins had said his team had more than five contingency plans for a home stadium.

“I’m excited we finally have to a place to play. We’re done with that,” Blue Jays Manager Charlie Montoyo said.

Slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. expects the Buffalo park to favor pitchers because it is a larger field than the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

“It’s going to be different because of the way it is in Toronto compared to Buffalo,” Guerrero said through an interpreter. “There are no fans anyway. We’re just going to go play baseball.”

Blue Jays players had made it clear to the front office they wanted to play in a major league park. Outfielder Randal Grichuk had described Buffalo as a “worst case.”

“This process has no doubt tested our team’s resilience, but our players and staff refuse to make excuses,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro said substantial new construction will be required to upgrade Sahlen Field. The locker room needs to be expanded so players can practice social distancing. The lights need to be upgraded as well. The team will bear the majority, if not all, of the costs, he said.

The team also reached out to the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres about using some of their facilities.

At a news conference, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz put on a Blue Jays cap and jersey in anticipation of what he said will be the first major league game to be played in Buffalo since 1885.

The Blue Jays and visiting teams and personnel will fill two hotels, Poloncarz said, and restaurants will cater their food. He told residents not to expect to bump into players around town.

“They will basically be sequestered and quarantining in hotels,” Poloncarz said.

BRAVES: Atlanta was without its top two catchers, Tyler Flowers and Travis d’Arnaud, for its opening game at the New York Mets after both players showed symptoms of the coronavirus.

There has been concern that catchers are especially vulnerable to the virus because they’re in close proximity to batters and the plate umpire.

MARLINS: Catcher Jorge Alfaro went on the injured list before Miami’s season opener at Philadelphia.

The Marlins didn’t give a reason but said they expected Alfaro to return this season.

TV RATINGS: The pandemic-delayed Major League Baseball opener was the sport’s most-watched regular-season game on any network in nine years.

The New York Yankees’ rain-shortened 4-1 win at the Washington Nationals on Thursday night averaged 4 million viewers on ESPN, according to Nielsen fast national ratings. The game peaked at 8:30 p.m. with 4.48 million viewers.

No regular-season game had been viewed by that many since 4.7 million watched the Red Sox beat the Yankees 3-2 in 10 innings on Aug. 7, 2011, also on ESPN.

FOUR PLAYERS and two staff members tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week.

There have been 99 new positive tests since intake screening began June 27, Major League Baseball and the players’ association said Friday. That represents 0.3% of 32,640 samples and includes 84 players and 15 staff.


CUBS 3, BREWERS 0: Kyle Hendricks convinced new manager David Ross to let him finish a three-hitter, Ian Happ and Anthony Rizzo homered, and Chicago started the season by beating Milwaukee at Wrigley Field.

Showing off an improved curveball, Hendricks struck out nine and walked none in his first Opening Day start and fourth career shutout. He threw 103 pitches.

Orlando Arcia had each of Milwaukee’s hits.

INDIANS 2, ROYALS 0: Shane Bieber struck out 14 over six scoreless innings as the Indians, making a statement for minorities by wearing their road jerseys with “Cleveland” on the front, beat Kansas City in theirhome opener.

METS 1, BRAVES 0: Yoenis Cespedes came back with a bang, taking immediate advantage of the new designated hitter rule in the National League by launching a home run that gave New York a win it its season opener.

After five dominant innings from Mets starter Jacob deGrom, Cespedes connected in the seventh off reliever Chris Martin for his first long ball since his previous major league game on July 20, 2018.

The slugger missed most of the past two seasons because of a string of leg injuries, requiring surgery on both heels and then a broken ankle.

REDS 7, TIGERS 1: Mike Moustakas drove in four runs and teamed with fellow Cincinnati newcomers Shogo Akiyama and Nick Castellanos to turn the Reds’ long-delayed opener into a 7-1 victory over visiting Detroit.

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