COVID-19 cases may be spiking in different states across the country, but Major League Baseball has finally announced its plan to move forward after shutting down due to the novel coronavirus in mid-March.
Long negotiations between the league and the MLB Players Association did not yield a deal, so instead, there will be a league-implemented season that will look different than any other season we hae seen before.
What exactly does that mean? It’s hard to say. But here’s a list of frequently asked questions about the upcoming season, which is set to begin late next month.
When will the season start?
The Twins will report to Target Field by July 1 — next Wednesday — so they can have a little more than three weeks to prepare for a 60-game season. The schedule has not been made public yet, but the season is slated to begin on July 23 or 24 and end on Sept. 27.
Some players already have been training in town and others are expected to arrive within the next few days. All will undergo COVID testing.
Where will the Twins play?
Target Field. Most teams are expected to train and play at their home parks, with the Toronto Blue Jays being a possible exception because of mandatory 14-day quarantines required when entering Canada.
Who will the Twins play?
The Twins will primarily play American League Central opponents. Forty of their 60 games will come against the Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers.
The other 20 games will be played against National League Central opponents — the Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals — to limit travel. That should bode well for the Twins, who had the best record of those 10 teams last season.
What will the playoffs look like?
As of right now, the playoffs are expected to look the same as they have in recent years: Five teams from each league. There was a possibility of expanded playoffs if the league and PA had struck a deal, but they did not.
Twins closer Taylor Rogers, the team’s interim Players Association rep, said Wednesday he heard some whispers that an expanded postseason could still be negotiated, but said he had not heard anything concrete.
Will fans be allowed into Target Field?
As of now, the Twins — and most teams — are expecting to start the season without fans in the stands. An exception to begin the season could be in Houston and Dallas, where state guidelines would permit it.
However, team president Dave St. Peter said the Twins remain engaged in conversation with Gov. Tim Walz’s office as well as Minnesota Department of Health officials about the potential of re-introducing fans to Target Field.
“That conversation is ongoing, but I’m hopeful that we will have fans at some point during the 2020 season,” St. Peter said Wednesday.
Will rosters be expanded?
With a shorter ramp-up period than normal, teams will be allowed to have a 30-man roster for the first two weeks of the season. Teams must trim that number to 28 two weeks later and then down to 26 two weeks after that.
Additionally, teams will have a taxi squad that will train at a different location with players who could be activated. While the Twins have not yet finalized where the taxi squad will train, St. Peter said the Twins have talked to the St. Paul Saints about using CHS Field and Gophers coach John Anderson about possibility using the University of Minnesota’s facility.
Will there be a trade deadline?
The league reportedly has moved the July 31 trade deadline back one month, to Aug. 31.
Will there be any rule changes?
On top of a whole host of health and safety protocols that will be put in place to try to stave off COVID-19, there also will be some changes to play. All teams will use a designated hitter this year for the first time ever, though National League teams may revert back to pitchers hitting next season.
Another big rule change will come into play in extra innings when pitchers will have to contend with a runner starting the inning on second base, a rule that has been used in the minor leagues in recent years to speed up the pace of play.
The three-batter minimum, which requires a reliever to face three batters upon entering a game, also will be in play. That rule was scheduled to be introduced this year regardless.
What will happen if a player tests positive for COVID-19?
There is expected to be a COVID-19 “injured” list if a player tests positive. Any player who tests positive will have to quarantine and will not be allowed to return to play until testing negative twice.
A positive test would trigger more rapid tests of teammates as organizations work to keep players safe from the novel coronavirus.