Blue Jays to play majority of home games in Buffalo amid coronavirus pandemic

Inside the temporary home of the Blue Jays (0:36)

Check out where the Blue Jays will be playing most of their home games this season, at Sahlen Field, the home of the team's Triple-A affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons. (0:36)

The displaced Toronto Blue Jays will play the majority of their home games in Buffalo, New York, this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, the team announced Friday.

The Blue Jays will play at Sahlen Field, home of the team's Triple-A affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons.

"We are extremely grateful to have a home in Buffalo this season, thanks to the openness, creativity, and partnership of the Buffalo Bisons, Major League Baseball, and Blue Jays staff, who have worked tirelessly to prepare us for games at Sahlen Field," Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro said in a statement. "This process has no doubt tested our team's resilience, but our players and staff refuse to make excuses -- we are determined to take the field on Opening Day today, and for the coming months, with the same intensity and competitiveness that our fans expect."

Toronto begins the season at Tampa Bay on Friday. The team said the first scheduled home series, against the Washington Nationals on Wednesday and Thursday, will take place on the road to accommodate infrastructure modifications at Sahlen Field to meet Major League Baseball playing standards and COVID-19 safety requirements.

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

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

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

Slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. said he expects Buffalo's 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."

The Blue Jays had been looking for a major league park after the Canadian government declined to allow them to play in Toronto and the state of Pennsylvania nixed a deal for them to play in Pittsburgh because of frequent travel throughout the United States.

"I like the fact that it's going to be our home field and we know where we're going," Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. "That's the main thing. When other teams come in, we're going to be playing more games there than the other teams, so that's what I like the most, that we have a home [ballpark], and that's Buffalo, and that'll be great. Our people are going to do a great job to make it look as close to a big league stadium as we can."

A source told ESPN's Marly Rivera that Maryland offered to allow the Blue Jays to start playing at Camden Yards in September, but the team decided it did not want to wait.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press that there had been talks about the state hosting the Blue Jays, but the team didn't want to wait to see if Maryland officials would say no with its season starting Friday.

"Baltimore never got to a situation to where we were denied," 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, but one we felt could get close to a major league one."

In a letter, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) urged MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to pick Buffalo.

"Since it is Opening Day, there is little time for continued deliberation -- now is the time to act -- and Buffalo is ready to roll out the red carpet and welcome Major League Baseball to Sahlen Field and Western New York," he wrote. "I strongly urge MLB and the Blue Jays to choose Buffalo as your home for the 2020 season."

Schumer noted the partnership between the Bisons and Blue Jays has been strong since their affiliation began in 2013.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters before the announcement that he spoke to Manfred on Friday morning.

"If we can get Toronto playing here, I say great. We have the protocols in place. It will be done safely," Cuomo said. "I'd rather it happen here. It's good for Buffalo."

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said this week that his team had more than five contingency plans for a home stadium and was in talks with other teams. Atkins had previously said if the Blue Jays couldn't find a major league park, Buffalo would be their most likely site for home games. But it lacks major league-caliber facilities.

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

At a separate news conference at the ballpark, baseball operations president Mike Buczkowski of Rich Entertainment Group, which owns the Bisons, said the team won't know when the first game will be played until it evaluates what modifications will be needed.

"We're further challenged in doing that by COVID and by the protocols and the safety measures that have to be in place for the players," Buczkowski said.

"Some of it will take days. Some of it is going to take probably longer than that. So that's why we really can't say exactly which day would be the first game that we would host here."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.