Phillies head to Toronto without J.T. Realmuto, who won’t let Canada tell him what to do

ST. LOUIS — Aaron Nola and J.T. Realmuto made up the Phillies’ starting battery in Monday night’s 6-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

Earlier in the day, the two men made news when it was announced that they would not accompany their teammates to Toronto for a two-game series that begins Tuesday night.

Canada requires a COVID-19 vaccination for entry.

Neither player is vaccinated and neither regrets it.

“I just didn’t want to do it,” was Nola’s explanation for not getting the vaccine.

Realmuto was a little more expansive on the topic.

“I’m a healthy 31-year-old professional athlete and I just didn’t feel I needed to get it,” he said. “I had COVID a couple of times, super-mild symptoms, back when it first came out. When it came time to decide whether I needed the vaccine or not, I talked with doctors I knew and I told them my story and decided I didn’t think I needed it.

“I wasn’t going to take it just because I was told to, basically.”

Realmuto, Nola, Alec Bohm and Kyle Gibson are also unvaccinated. Bohm may avoid the restricted list after dislocating his left ring finger Monday night. He could end up on the injured list instead.

Players on the restricted list don’t get paid. Realmuto will lose more than $262,000 — over a quarter of a million bucks — because he’s barred from making the trip to Toronto.

 

“What’s money when I’m not going to let Canada tell me what I do and don’t put in my body?” Realmuto said. “For a little bit of money, it’s not worth it.”

Backup catcher Garrett Stubbs is expected to start in Toronto on Tuesday night while Realmuto, Nola and Gibson head to Miami, where the Phillies will play Friday night. Realmuto, who played in Miami before arriving in Philadelphia, has arranged for workouts at a baseball facility in the area.

The unvaxed Phillies have the support of their teammates. Kyle Schwarber was pretty vocal about that earlier Monday.

“It’s an extremely unfortunate situation,” Realmuto said. “Obviously, my teammates know how I feel about them and how bad I want to be out there with them, but it’s unfortunate I’m not able to make the trip.”

The Phils head to Toronto on a bit of a downer even beyond Bohm’s injury and the unvaccinated exiles.

The team began its four-game trip to St. Louis with a pair of shutout wins on Friday and Saturday. Those victories — by scores of 1-0 and 2-0 — gave the Phils a two-game lead over the Cardinals for control of the final NL wild-card spot.

The Phillies’ losses on Sunday afternoon and Monday night have them back in a virtual tie with the Cards, though the Phils own a percentage-point lead and the head-to-head tiebreaker, if needed, after winning four of seven meetings in the season series.

“It’s definitely disappointing (not to win the series), especially after starting out 2-0,” Realmuto said. “Even after losing yesterday, we felt confident we’d win the series tonight. It’s tough to lose two in a row, but that’s a good team over there and it’s going to happen. We just have to turn the page and finish this week off strong before the All-Star break.”

Other than settling for a split, the most disappointing element of the series was the Phillies’ offense. It generated just seven runs in four games.

The Phils could not hold a 3-1 lead in the middle innings Sunday and lost, 4-3. Rhys Hoskins homered in the first inning Monday night to give the Phils a 1-0 lead and Nola held it through four. Nola shifted focus from his fastball to his breaking stuff in the fifth inning and gave up four hits and three runs.

In the seventh, Nola allowed a leadoff double to Albert Pujols. Corey Dickerson followed that with a two-run homer.

Pujols’ double was the was 1,378th extra-base hit of his career, putting him ahead of Cardinal legend Stan Musial for third all-time.

Nola is 5-7 with a 3.35 ERA. He will have one more start before the All-Star break over the weekend in Miami.

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