10 unvaccinated Royals players skipping trip to Toronto

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Royals will be without 10 of the 26 players on their active roster for their upcoming trip to Toronto due to Canadian restrictions on travelers who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19.

Manager Mike Matheny said the club will be without hitters Andrew Benintendi, Hunter Dozier, Cam Gallagher, Kyle Isbel, MJ Melendez, Whit Merrifield and Michael A. Taylor along with pitchers Dylan Coleman, Brad Keller and Brady Singer.

The team is set to play four games in Toronto. The 10 players will be placed on the restricted list and forfeit four days of pay and major league service time in accordance with the terms of MLB’s collective bargaining agreement.

“It’s an individual choice,” Matheny said. “The organization’s done a real good job bringing in professionals and experts to talk guys through tough conversations and then put it in their hands to make the decisions they believe is best for them and their families.”

Benintendi will lose $186,813, Merrifield $153,846, Keller $106,044 and Dozier and Taylor $98,901 each. Among the others, the lost pay for Gallagher will be $19,451, Singer $15,962, Isbel $15,426, Coleman $15,399 and Melendez $15,385.

The club will name their replacements Thursday, along with an announcement about other staff who won’t be traveling with the club.

“Now what it presents is an opportunity for some young guys to step in who wouldn’t normally be here,” Matheny said. “It will affect what we’re doing rotation-wise and that will be another question that we’ll have to answer later. I’m excited about some guys coming in and getting a chance.”

Players cited personal decisions for themselves and their families behind their reasoning to not be vaccinated.

“It was a choice I made talking with my family, talking with my wife,” Merrifield said. “I didn’t think that the risk was worth it, honestly.

“I don’t feel like COVID is a threat to me,” he added.

The unvaccinated players said they felt teammates supported their decisions.

“We’ve talked to these guys, they’re not judging us at all,” Dozier said. “They have our backs. I don’t think we’ve ever dealt with something like this, where we’re being forced to take a vaccine just to go play over in Toronto. It’s just a weird situation. It’s unfortunate.”

“(The) staff, owner, GM, everybody, it’s been really cool to see how they’re handling it,” Coleman said. “Not like forcing it. I feel like we all have our own opinion, so it’s been really good that the higher-ups respect that.”

Merrifield had the majors’ longest active games played streak at 553 before a foot injury kept him out of action Sunday. He said he might change his mind if a similar circumstance presented itself later in the year.

“That might change down the road,” he said. “If 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. As we sit here right now, I’m comfortable with my decision.”

Phillies’ Bryce Harper to miss start of season after elbow surgery

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PHILADELPHIA – Phillies slugger Bryce Harper will miss the start of the 2023 season after he had reconstructive right elbow surgery.

The operation was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

Harper is expected to return to Philadelphia’s lineup as the designated hitter by the All-Star break. He could be back in right field by the end of the season, according to the team.

The 30-year-old Harper suffered a small ulnar collateral ligament tear in his elbow in April. He last played right field at Miami on April 16. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection in May and shifted to designated hitter.

Harper met Nov. 14 with ElAttrache, who determined the tear did not heal on its own, necessitating surgery.

Even with the elbow injury, Harper led the Phillies to their first World Series since 2009, where they lost in six games to Houston. He hit .349 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 17 postseason games.

In late June, Harper suffered a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch and was sidelined for two months. The two-time NL MVP still hit .286 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs for the season.

Harper left Washington and signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in 2019. A seven-time All-Star, Harper has 285 career home runs.

With Harper out, the Phillies could use Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber at designated hitter. J.T. Realmuto also could serve as the DH when he needs a break from his catching duties.