August 15, 2022

TAMPA — With nine games in Toronto this season, Yankees manager Aaron Boone will be keeping an eye on Canada’s border restrictions with regards to COVID-19 vaccination status.

Because if the current rules remain in place, the Yankees could be missing players any time they play the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

Boone said Sunday that his team still has “a few guys at least” who are unvaccinated, meaning they would not be allowed to play in Toronto.

“It’ll be interesting, to say the least, how that situation unfolds,” Boone said as his players went through physicals upon arriving at camp. “I think we still have a few guys at least that aren’t vaccinated. So we’ll be monitoring that situation closely and see how that plays out.

“But yeah, it’s a concern.”

The Yankees take batting practice during the start of spring training.
Corey Sipkin

The Yankees are scheduled to make their first trip north of the border May 2-4, so there is virtually no chance the restrictions will be lifted by then. They head back June 17-19 and again Sept. 26-28.

Last season, the Yankees finished one game ahead of the Blue Jays — who have bolstered their rotation by adding Kevin Gausman and Yusei Kikuchi while losing MVP candidate and All-Star infielder Marcus Semien — in the American League East. But they were able to have their full roster available when playing in Toronto because of a national interest exemption for professional and amateur athletes that allowed unvaccinated players to cross the Canadian border.

That exemption has since been revoked, though, meaning unvaccinated major leaguers will have to go on the restricted list — losing pay and service time during the series — when their teams play in Toronto.

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Boone was asked if he would consider pressing his unvaccinated players to get the jab because now they are at risk of missing key games.

“It’s definitely a personal decision,” Boone said. “Now, if it’s something that becomes an issue, yeah, I would have conversations with guys. But ultimately it’s something that I do look at as a personal choice. I have people in my life that have made choices on both sides. I understand it’s one of those things that’s kind of polarized us unfortunately, as a nation, as a world. So yeah, I’ll certainly communicate with our guys, but in the end, it’s a personal decision.”

The Yankees had more than 85 percent of their Tier 1 personnel vaccinated last season, but not all of their players. It remains to be seen whether decreasing COVID-19 cases could lead Canada to relax its border restrictions at some point during the season.