Major League Baseball issued a 60-game schedule Tuesday night that will start July 23 or 24 in empty ballparks as the sport tries to push ahead amid the coronavirus following months of acrimony.
Each team will play 10 games against each of its four division rivals and four games vs. each of the five clubs in the corresponding division in the other league, according to details obtained by The Associated Press.
A team is scheduled to make only one trip to each city it visits in MLB’s shortest season since 1878.
In a twist, the sides expanded the designated hitter to games involving National League teams and instituted the radical innovation of starting extra innings with a runner on second base.
The number of playoff teams will remain at 10, though that still could change.
The trade deadline will be Aug. 31 and the deadline for postseason eligibility is Sept. 15.
Active rosters will be 30 during the first two weeks of the season, 28 during the second two weeks and 26 after that. They will not expand to 28 on Sept. 1, as originally intended this year.
With no minor leagues, teams would be allowed to retain 60 players each, including a taxi squad. Up to three players from the taxi squad can travel with a team to a game, and one of the three must be a catcher.
MLB is keeping the innovation of the three-batter minimum for pitchers, but decided to keep the injured list minimum for pitchers at 10 days rather than revert to 15, as initially intended. But the new rule remains in place that a pitcher must face at least three batters or finish the half inning.
Although neither side expected the health and safety issues to torpedo an agreement, there were countless factors to sort through, with the landscape around the coronavirus outbreak growing more daunting almost by the day. Several states across the Sun Belt, which are home to more than a third of MLB teams, have seen their case numbers spike in recent weeks.
Already, the Philadelphia Phillies have confirmed an outbreak stemming from their spring headquarters in Clearwater, Fla., in which at least seven players and five staff members have tested positive – one of several developments that prompted MLB to shutter all spring training facilities last week. And Tuesday night, within minutes of MLB’s announcement of a deal to start the season, the Denver Post reported three members of the Colorado Rockies, including all-star outfielder Charlie Blackmon, had tested positive.
Among the most pressing matters in the health and safety negotiation was how to deal with players who opt out of playing in 2020, either because they have medical conditions that make them high-risk or because they have made a personal calculation that the risk of contracting the coronavirus outweighs the reward. Players will earn 37 percent of their original 2020 salaries if the season reaches its full 60 games.