Major League Baseball finalizes 2020 return, sides agree to health protocols

Baseball is back.

Major League Baseball and the players’ association reached an agreement Tuesday on health and safety protocols for the 60-game 2020 season.

“Major League Baseball is thrilled to announce that the 2020 season is on the horizon,” commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “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.”

Camps will open July 1, with the “vast majority” of teams staging camps at their home ballparks, according to the league.

Due to restrictions at the Canada-United States border, Toronto Blue Jays players are expected to report to the team’s minor-league complex in Dunedin, Florida, according to Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun. The Washington Nationals‘ use of Nationals Park for their camp is contingent on the District of Columbia lifting COVID-19 restrictions, according to MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.

Opening Day will take place on July 23 or 24.

The schedule – MLB’s shortest since 1878 – will be based on regional alignment. Each team will face its divisional opponents 40 times, plus another 20 interleague games against its geographic divisional counterparts (for example, AL East teams will play 20 contests against the NL East). Each team will only make one road trip to cities on the schedule, according to Ronald Blum of The Associated Press.

Other unique features of the shortened season reportedly include an Aug. 31 trade deadline, 30-man rosters for the first two weeks, and optional taxi squads for road games.

Teams must designate 60 eligible players to be part of a “player pool” for the 2020 season, according to Chris Cotillo of MassLive. The pools will include all 40-man roster players plus 20 additional selections. No club can exceed 60 players at any time, and inactive players not on a taxi squad would stay at an alternate training site.

The normal 10-day injured list will remain, but the long-term 60-day IL will now change to 45 days. An additional IL for players dealing with COVID-19 will also be implemented, a special list that won’t come with a minimum or maximum length, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports.

Players must also complete a COVID-19 education program before arriving at spring training, according to Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. The program includes watching an educational video and taking classes.

Television broadcasters are not expected to travel with their teams, Cotillo reports. However, local radio broadcasters will be permitted to call games on the road.

Earlier Tuesday, players agreed to report to camps. Health and safety protocols were the last hurdle remaining to end the prolonged standoff between the MLB and MLBPA and finalize a 2020 season.

MLB announced Monday that all 30 owners voted to implement the 2020 schedule after the union rejected their final proposal.

The 2020 season had been slated to start on March 26 before the coronavirus pandemic forced MLB to delay the beginning of the campaign.

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