Though an official announcement has yet to come, Major League Baseball and the Players Association reportedly are planning for Spring Training camps to open on time next month.
However, with coronavirus (COVID-19) cases still surging across the country, there figures to be some notable differences when compared to previous years. To help curb the spread, MLB wants to reduce the number of players in camp.
As a result, Minor Leaguers (excluding Triple-A) may have to wait longer to report depending on the widespread availability of a vaccine.
To show they are serious about this, MLB recently issued a stern warning to clubs that they could face discipline if players are in camp ahead of time, via Bob Nightengale of USA Today:
“We have been informed that some clubs intend to increase the number of players at their Spring Training facilities in January and February prior to the commencement of spring training,” the memo reads. “As you are all aware, COVID-19 is surging in the United States, and conditions may worsen after the holiday season. We have not yet received firm guidance from our medical experts on whether it is safe to conduct organized workouts in Club facilities under current conditions, and the protocols that would be required to conduct such workouts safely.
“We also have not yet negotiated with the Players Association over the health and safety protocols that will be applicable to 2021 Spring Training and the 2021 season. Finally, the intensive COVID-19 testing protocol that we utilized in 2020, which is necessary when the risk of community transmission is high, will not be available to clubs from central baseball until the start of Spring Training. As a result, until the commencement of spring training … clubs may not direct, encourage, or request (even on a voluntary basis) that players travel from their present locations to the club’s spring training site for the purpose of utilizing club facilities.”
Those in violation, the memo says, “will be subject to significant discipline by the Commissioner.”
MLB will allow a select number of players to report to Spring Training facilities early if they live close by, need medical care or have been approved beforehand:
Players who have a permanent residence proximate to their facilities. Players who require entry to the facility to receive medical care. Players who have been approved to attend a club-organized mini-camp under the terms of the Basic Agreement.
Given the current climate, it makes sense that MLB doesn’t want players reporting to camp before the start of Spring Training. With coronavirus testing unavailable until the middle of February, there would be no way of telling if a player is positive.
The last thing MLB wants is a clubhouse outbreak, as a handful of teams experienced those last season and were forced to make up a lot of games.
MLB, Players Association sorting out health and safety protocols
The league and union currently are in the process of sorting out health and safety protocols for the 2021 season. They also are discussing whether one or both of the universal designated hitter and expanded postseason will return.
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