Blue Jays new surface called “slow” being monitored by MLB

The Toronto Blue Jays used to play on the fastest surface in baseball; now, with the new artificial turf in place, they may be playing on one of the slowest surfaces.

Last week, third-base coach Luis Rivera was hitting ground balls from home plate with his fungo bat, trying to gauge the speed of the surface. He hit about 15 balls and could not get even one to roll to the outfield fence.

“I saw it over the winter when we had the State of the Franchise meeting and some guys have told me it’s slow,” manager John Gibbons said. “If we don’t like it, I don’t think they’re going to change it overnight. If it’s slow, I think it will always help the pitchers. The toughest part about playing in this stadium is the fly balls. This park will give up the home run. Maybe slowing the turf down a little bit will equalize things a little. Maybe the ball won’t roll through that infield. That will help everybody. It might take away a few hits offensively for some guys but overall, for the pitching staff, it will help.”

It may take a couple of months before the new Rogers Centre turf stops gobbling up infield grounders that normally would bounce through for base hits, an AstroTurf official says.

Give it time and more games, and the field will play faster, Astroturf vice-president Kenny Gilman said in an interview. And the complicated process of removing the artificial grass between Blue Jays homestands might also help to make the field play faster, he said.

The removal machinery applies “extreme pressure” to the turf when it is rolled up, helping to stabilize the rubber pellets that form the infill and flatten the synthetic blades of grass, Gilman said. Over time, playing on it will do the same thing.

“I think both AstroTurf and the Blue Jays feel it’s a little slower than we thought it would play,” he said. “But it’s brand new and it will definitely speed up.”

Meanwhile, a source confirmed that Major League Baseball is “keeping an eye” on the way the new turf affects play. But the source stressed that MLB is not concerned at the moment and is monitoring the situation as it would any other design change that might impact play at any stadium.

Citing a source, Jon Morosi of Fox Sports tweeted Wednesday that MLB is “actively monitoring the turf situation at Rogers Centre due to irregular bounces on the surface.”