It has seemed like a lifetime since the coronavirus pandemic shutdown spring training for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the rest of Major League Baseball. But rejoice, baseball fans, America’s Pastime will be back soon!
On March 12, the Pittsburgh Pirates played the Toronto Blue Jays in a Grapefruit League game. Despite a Cole Tucker home run, the Pirates were defeated by the Blue Jays 7-5. When this game ended, so did spring training for the Pirates. Due to the coronvairus pandemic, it was unclear when fans would see baseball again.
As negotiations between the owners and the player’s association for a restart plan got ugly, it again seemed unlikely that there would be baseball in 2020. However, that all changed on Monday when a mandated 60-game season was announced by MLB. Then on Tuesday, the MLBPA agreed to the terms of the health and safety protocols that have been put in place. Now, it’s official, baseball is back!
‘Spring training 2.0’ will start for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the rest of MLB on July 1. Team’s will be permitted to have up to 60 players in camp. When the regular season begins, rosters will be 30 players instead of 26. On the 15th day of the season, this number becomes 28. Teams will then have to be down to 26 by day 28.
After a few weeks of camp, the regular season will begin on either July 23 or 24. Teams will play a 60 game schedule that will feature 40 games against their divisional foes, and an additional 20 games of interleague play against geographically close teams. Most likely the Pittsburgh Pirates will play against the American League Central. This, however, is not yet known.
There will also be a universal DH this season. This could impact the Pittsburgh Pirates in a variety of ways. Josh Bell could move to DH in an effort to improve first base defense by playing Jose Osuna or Will Craig there. The team could also DH Adam Frazier, while moving Kevin Newman to second base and playing Tucker every day at shortstop. Regardless of what they do, they’ll have options.
Team’s will also be bale to have a 30 man taxi squad this season. This is due to the lack of a minor league season and the need to have players readily available to be promoted to the MLB roster in the case of players testing positive for the coronavirus. It has been reported that the Pirates tax squad will use People’s Natural Gas Field, home of their Double-A affiliate the Altoona Curve, will be used for taxi squad players to train at and stay in game shape.
Players will also have the option to opt out of playing this season if they have any conditions that makes them a high risk individual. They can also opt out if any family members are in that boat. For example, players with pregnant wives. This will be something to monitor in the coming days.
It will be weird. It will be different. It will only be 60 games, but it will be baseball! Finally, friends, our long, national nightmare is over and baseball is back! Just one week until spring training resumes and 30 days until the regular season begins!