TORONTO  — The Blue Jays won’t play their home games in Toronto this year because Canada’s government doesn’t think it’s safe for players to travel back and forth from the United States, one of the countries hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said Saturday the federal government had denied the Blue Jays’ request to play at Rogers Centre, confirming what an official familiar with the matter had told The Associated Press ahead of the announcement.

The team had been given clearance by city and provincial governments to play in its home stadium and was awaiting approval from Canada’s federal government. The other 29 Major League Baseball teams plan to play in their home ballparks, without spectators, when the pandemic-shortened 60-game season begins next week.

Mendicino told The AP frequent travel to the U.S., where COVID-19 cases are surging, was the biggest issue.

“There were serious risks if we proceeded with the regular-season proposal of the MLB and the Jays and therefore we concluded it was not in the national interest,” Mendicino said. “I get that some people will disappointed but this decision can’t be taken as a fan. It is taken on behalf of the health and safety of Canadians.”

The Blue Jays were informed via a phone call. The team’s alternate sites for home games include its training facility in Dunedin, Florida, which is among the states that are virus hotspots, as well as Sahlen Field in Buffalo, which is home to Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate and just across the Niagara River from Canada.

Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro said player health is a concern in Florida. He said the team has spent more time examining Buffalo in recent days but said the stadium has infrastructure challenges. A lack of space in the clubhouse makes social distancing difficult, but Shapiro said some players could have their lockers set up in suites. Sahlen Field also needs upgrades to its field lights and its training facilities, he said.

The Blue Jays are scheduled to start the season July 24 at Tampa Bay. Their home opener was set for five days later against Washington.

Mendicino said the government is open to considering future restart plans for the postseason should the risk of virus transmission diminish.

“We’ve committed to maintaining an open line of communication with both MLB and the Toronto Blue Jays and we will reassess in due course,” he said.

MLB needed an exemption to a requirement that anyone entering Canada for nonessential reasons must self-isolate for 14 days. The U.S.-Canada border remains closed to nonessential travel until at least Aug. 21.

“In Canada you’ve seen us flatten the curve. You’ve seen that cases have decreased significantly and that is largely attributable to the sacrifices Canadians have made. We can ill afford a step back,” Mendicino said.

“We think this is the right call and it is backed by the evidence and advice of our health experts. And fans who still would like to see baseball will still be able to watch the broadcast, just from a different location.”

The NHL has received an exemption for its restart to the season, but that was a far simpler case because the games are restricted to two hubs – Edmonton and Toronto.

The Blue Jays received an exemption for summer camp, during which the players agreed to isolate in the hotel attached to Rogers Centre and create a quarantine environment. Players are not allowed to leave the stadium or hotel and violators face fines of up to $750,000 Canadian ($551,000 U.S.) and up to six months in jail.

YANKEES: Suspended pitcher Domingo Germán says he is not retiring from baseball and apologized for suggesting as much in an Instagram post Friday night.

A right-hander who turns 28 on Aug. 4, Germán is serving an 81-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy and won’t play this season.

• Second baseman DJ LeMahieu isn’t sure if he’ll be ready for Thursday’s season opener after missing much of preseason camp because of a positive coronavirus test.

LeMahieu finally reported to camp this week after testing positive at his home in Michigan last month. The three-time All-Star said it was “shocking” to get the result because he had no symptoms. The 32-year-old took the test because he wanted to be sure he didn’t have COVID-19 before visiting his father.

“It’s definitely a scary thing,” LeMahieu said in his first public remarks since reporting to New York this week.

LeMahieu, a three-time Gold Glove winner, participated in his first practice Friday and isn’t sure if he can get up to speed by Thursday, when New York plays in Washington against the World Series champion Nationals.

“I don’t know if it’s realistic or not,” he said. “I think it’s going to be up to the trainer and (manager Aaron Boone). But I think it’ll be pretty close. If not opening day, it’ll be the first few games.”

He took batting practice and did some baserunning Saturday at Yankee Stadium while teammates played an exhibition game against the crosstown Mets in Queens. LeMahieu hit off a tee and exercised at home while waiting to be cleared for preseason camp.

LeMahieu took virus tests every other day while in Michigan and said he was tested 11 or 12 times before finally getting consecutive negative results.

TIGERS: Pitcher Jordan Zimmermann is going on the 45-day injured list because of a strained right forearm.

Manager Ron Gardenhire said Saturday that the right-hander doesn’t need surgery and could return at the end of this abbreviated season. But this move obviously means he won’t be pitching much this year, if at all.

“He’s going to rehab,” Gardenhire said. “He played catch a couple of times. Feels fine, and then it starts getting a little sore, so now it’s just about doing the rehab and going from there.”

This is the final year of Zimmermann’s contract with Detroit. He went 1-13 with a 6.91 ERA last year and has struggled to stay healthy while with the Tigers. He has a 5.61 ERA in four seasons with Detroit

ORIOLES: Outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. has rejoined the team after missing the start of summer camp following a positive test for the coronavirus.

RICK REED, whose career as a big league umpire spanned three decades and included two All-Star games and a World Series, has died. He was 70.

Reed was the plate umpire in 1992 when George Brett got his 3,000th hit as Kansas City shut out the Angels. The winning pitcher that day was longtime big league right-hander Rick Reed.

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