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Challenges? More like advantages, Toronto says

@KeeganMatheson
July 4, 2020

TORONTO -- With players finally expected to arrive in Toronto on Sunday and Summer Camp workouts scheduled to begin on Monday, the Blue Jays are framing their challenges as advantages. The 2020 season was supposed to represent a major step forward from the club's 67-win 2019, perhaps pushing them into

TORONTO -- With players finally expected to arrive in Toronto on Sunday and Summer Camp workouts scheduled to begin on Monday, the Blue Jays are framing their challenges as advantages.

The 2020 season was supposed to represent a major step forward from the club's 67-win 2019, perhaps pushing them into the neighborhood of .500 before they hope to emerge as a true playoff threat in '21. But pandemic-induced realities may also open some doors. Over 60 games, good bounces are worth more than ever, and hot streaks can change a season.

With a veteran rotation and young roster, the Blue Jays think they can make some noise ahead of schedule.

“Our objective chances have improved,” Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said. “If you spoke to our coaches and players, they’ve always been thinking about winning and about this being a very competitive group. The fact that it is a shorter season, we’re talking about how to maximize that.”

Blue Jays set for Summer Camp at home

This all starts with a base belief in the roster, of course, but more specifically a belief that the modified quarantine and Summer Camp in the city can help the club ramp up more effectively than others. Players won’t be leaving the footprint of Rogers Centre all camp, which includes the hotel, but Atkins said they’re behind this idea and, often, have expressed belief that it could create an edge.

“One of the things that has come up most often as we’ve talked about those added restrictions is the competitive advantage for us,” Atkins said. “All great things require significant sacrifice.”

Workouts have already begun in Dunedin, Fla., where the Blue Jays gathered in a controlled environment to begin the health screening process. Once that charter plane reaches Toronto and formal workouts begin on Monday, even those could have a unique look.

The word of the day? Waves.

To best utilize their one field, five mounds and handful of batting cages in the building -- and to maintain physical distancing -- the Blue Jays will train in waves. This goes for both players and coaches, as the club does not want staff members on the field for full days, overlapping between several waves of players. This will require some creativity and adjustments as they go, but for a club that preaches “collaboration” as much as any in the game, there’s no time like the present.

Blue Jays Summer Camp: All you need to know

This is where Charlie Montoyo comes in. The manager, entering his second year, and his player development background is valuable when working with the young core, but his experience managing the ever-changing dynamics of Minor League clubs earlier in his career could suit him well here. The regular season may come down to best-on-best more often than we’re used to, with less opportunity for scheduled rest days. But this ramp-up period is where Atkins expects Montoyo to shine.

“This is, in my opinion, his wheelhouse,” Atkins said. “He loves to think about the entire roster, think about keeping guys involved and engaged and playing on a regular basis, as you saw last year. There was creativity to the playing time and the usage.”

The next hurdle the Blue Jays will need to clear comes with the regular season. The Canadian government has yet to approve the club playing out of Toronto, given the added complications of road teams flying in and out of the city for a series, but club president Mark Shapiro said on Friday that they are hoping for clarity on that front in the next 7-10 days.

Keegan Matheson is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter @KeeganMatheson.