Blue Jays complete construction of new dirt infield

Hazel Mae reports from Rogers Centre where the Toronto Blue Jays are getting amped up for their home opener against the Boston Red Sox.

TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays’ new playing surface looks much improved, and it might even offer a practical advantage.

The Blue Jays spent much of the last two months replacing cutouts around the four bases with a full dirt infield, a process that required the team to cut and excavate parts of the cement floor at Rogers Centre before adding dirt. Team president Mark Shapiro says the new surface looks “incredible,” and suggests it might help reduce wear and tear for Blue Jays players.

"It’s much more like the game’s meant to be played," Shapiro said Thursday. “It’s the material and surface (players) are used to playing on. It’s certainly going to have a little more give and should be a better surface for them day after day to play on."

Look no further than Josh Donaldson for evidence that turf can create physical stress for players. The third baseman, who’s currently day-to-day with a calf strain, said that the playing surface in Tampa Bay, where the Blue Jays opened their season, is “probably one of the hardest places to play consecutively just because it’s so hard." A softer surface could lessen the impact on players’ bodies.

Catch Marcus Stroman: The #STROSHOW, a special Sportsnet documentary debuting this Saturday, April 9, following the Red Sox-Blue Jays game.

The Blue Jays, one of two MLB teams that play on an artificial surface, had been the lone team with dirt cutouts until 2016. Manager John Gibbons expects the new surface to play differently than the old turf infield.

"It’s definitely going to be a faster game," Gibbons said. "There’s going to be more balls rolling through that didn’t roll through last year, so that’ll be an adjustment.”

"That’s what you’d expect, but until you’re out there and you see games live, you’re not exactly sure how it’ll play," Shapiro said. “I’d imagine it’d play a little quicker."

The Blue Jays started adjusting to the new surface during batting practice Thursday, but for the time being they’ll be adapting on the fly along with their opponents.

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