Why reigning Cy Young winner Robbie Ray didn't return to Toronto with Mariners

The Mariners are playing in Toronto for the first time this season, and one notable player is missing from the Seattle dugout.

Reigning Cy Young winner Robbie Ray -- who pitched to a 157 ERA+, a 3.69 FIP, and a career-high 248 strikeouts for the Blue Jays last year -- didn't make the trek to Canada with the Mariners to accept his award in an on-field ceremony, as is customary for players who have moved on to different teams.

The Mariners reshuffled their rotation so Ray would pitch against the Mets Sunday, allowing him to stay on the active roster but not be necessary for the Mariners' trip to Toronto.

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According to Mariners manager Scott Servais, Ray will not miss his upcoming start Friday against the Red Sox.

Servais shed some light on Ray's absence indirectly on Monday, saying “a couple players” would miss the series because of the Canadian government's vaccination mandate for incoming travelers, per The Associated Press.

Reliever and occasional closer Drew Steckenrider also didn't make the trip and was placed on the restricted list, with left-handed reliever Roenis Elias replacing him on the roster.

Why didn't the Mariners place Robbie Ray on the restricted list?

According to Daniel Kramer of MLB.com, Ray isn't able to be placed on the restricted list because he pitched within the last four days. Teams are unable to make changes to their roster for competitive advantage, which is why Steckenrider -- who also pitched Sunday -- was eligible to be moved. Steckenrider, as a reliever, frequently pitches on one day's rest.

In essence, Ray is on the active roster by requirement but was ineligible to travel with the team, leaving the Mariners down a man.

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How did Ray pitch for the Blue Jays in 2021?

Despite not being vaccinated, Ray was able to pitch for Toronto last season. The Blue Jays began their season in Buffalo in 2021, at Sahlen Field. They returned to the Rogers Centre at the end of July.

Ray was able to make that return because of a worker's exemption, which allowed him to make return trips to Canada.

Ray has struggled with the Mariners this year, posting an ERA of 4.62 and a 4-3 record. Kevin Gausman, who the Blue Jays signed to replace Ray in the rotation, is 3-2 with a 2.40 ERA in seven starts and currently sits second in AL Cy Young betting odds behind Justin Verlander, per FanDuel.

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