Malinga, who retired from test cricket earlier this year, gave a reminder of what a devastating bowler he can be by taking six wickets for seven runs in Australia's domestic Twenty20 tournament on Wednesday.
Jayawardene on Thursday named a largely unheralded trio of seamers in his team for the first test and said it was unrealistic to ask the 29-year-old to return to the test arena.
"I think Lasith has made up his mind," he said. "With the injuries he has had over the last couple of years, I think it's unfair to ask him to come and play test cricket.
"He's in our one-day team and Twenty20 team and he's contributing a lot. Do we risk all that? Test cricket is about bowling 20-25 overs, (Australia's) Peter Siddle the other day bowled 60.
"Can Malinga do that? I don't think so. I don't think we can make that decision and risk his career."
In Malinga's absence, Nuwan Kulasekara, Chanaka Welegedera and Shaminda Eranga were the trio named to try to make the most of what is expected to be a lively Hobart track.
Jayawardene defended his bowlers against the charge that they were the worst pace attack ever to tour Australia.
"Teams have to start somewhere, we've lost some fast bowlers in the past and some to injury," he said.
"This is an attack which is different, we probably don't have the pace that you think is required to win test matches in Australia.
"But we've got guys who will bowl a good line and length and create opportunities and if we do that, we've got a chance."
Dimuth Karunaratne was also included as an opener after scoring an unbeaten 60 on debut in the first test against New Zealand in Galle last month.
The 24-year-old lefthander replaces 30-year-old Tharanga Paranavitana, who scored 40 and nought in the second test against the Black Caps in Colombo, which the tourists won.
"We've made a call on Dimuth Karunaratne as opener, we think he deserves the chance with the way he's gone about things," Jayawardene added.
"It's a call the selectors and management are happy about and he will open the batting with (Tillakaratne) Dilshan."
Dilshan, along with Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Thilan Samaraweera, forms a core of veteran test batsmen who are expected to give Sri Lanka their best chance of grabbing a first ever test win in Australia.
"We'll bank on the experience in our batting," said Jayawardene, who announced he would be stepping down as captain after the tour.
"To win a test match, the most important thing is to put runs on the board. We need to score runs and give our bowlers a chance to take 20 wickets.
"If we can achieve that, I think we have a chance."
The series concludes with tests in Melbourne and Sydney.
Team: Tillakaratne Dilshan, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Thilan Samaraweera, Angelo Mathews, Prasanna Jayawardene, Nuwan Kulasekara, Chanaka Welegedera, Shaminda Eranga, Rangana Herath.