After a lengthy and often acrimonious negotiation process, Major League Baseball has set a plan for its return to the field, with players set to return to training camps on July 1. The season will have its Opening Day on either July 23 or 24 and run for 60 games – 102 fewer than a standard regular season – closing on September 27. Ten teams will then compete in the playoffs, assuming no additional halts due to the coronavirus.
“Major League Baseball is thrilled to announce that the 2020 season is on the horizon,” Commissioner Rob Manfred says. “We have provided the Players Association with a schedule to play 60 games and are excited to provide our great fans with Baseball again soon.”
Fans are not expected to be allowed at games during the shortened season. Indeed, even players who are not expected to participate in the day’s game will be watching from the stands, sitting at least six feet apart. There are many other changes to play set for what will be an unprecedented season played mostly in front of television cameras for fans at home.
Per a press release posted to MLB.com, the shortened season and a universal designated hitter in both the American and National Leagues, the following changes are to be in place for 2020:
• Teams will open the season with a 30-man active roster; it will be reduced to 28 players after two weeks, then to 26 after four weeks.
• The Trade Deadline will be Aug. 31.
• To be eligible for the postseason, a player must be added to the Major League roster by Sept. 15.
• Teams will be permitted to carry up to three taxi-squad players on the road during the season, though if a team carries three such players, one must be a catcher.
• During extra-inning games in the regular season, each half-inning will begin with a runner on second base. The batter who made the final out in the previous inning (or a pinch-runner for that batter) would be that runner.
• There will be a 10-day injured list for both pitchers and hitters, though the 60-day IL will be reduced to a 45-day IL.
• There will be a separate IL for players who either test positive or have symptoms/confirmed exposure to COVID-19. There is no maximum or minimum days for this IL.
• MLB’s transaction freeze, which has been in place since the season was suspended, will end on Friday at 12 p.m. ET.
• In addition to COVID-19 testing every other day, some other health precautions are as follows: Team personnel and players not likely to participate in the game (for example, the next day’s starting pitcher) will be sitting in the stands or another area designated by the club, at least six feet apart; non-playing personnel will wear masks in dugout and bullpen at all times; no spitting or chewing tobacco (gum is permitted); no celebratory contact (high-fives, fist bumps, hugs, etc.).
Players will receive a full prorated portion of their contracted salary based on games played. The season plan came after lengthy negotiations between players and management on potentially altered season plans extending deeper into the fall could not be agreed upon.