Major League Baseball is officially coming back.
The league formally announced Tuesday the 2020 season will begin on July 23 or 24 and that each team will play 60 games. Teams will play all of their games against divisional opponents or opponents from the opposite league’s corresponding division (i.e. AL East vs. NL East) in order to limit travel.
Players will begin a second spring training July 1, with most teams conducting camp at their home ballparks.
The announcement came after the players’ union accepted the league’s health and safety protocols that will guide MLB’s return to play. The league has been shut down since March 12 by the coronavirus pandemic.
The league’s announcement only specified the number of games played, who teams will play and the start dates for a second spring training and the regular season. It did not address specifics of the health and safety protocols, rule changes or roster size adjustments.
Among the reported changes for the 2020 season are the implementation of the designated hitter in the National League, runners being placed on second base to start each half-inning beginning with the 10th inning during extra-inning games in the regular season, an Aug. 31 trade deadline and active rosters expanded to 30 players for the first 15 days of the season and 28 players through the 28th day before reverting to 26.
MLB’s health and safety protocols reportedly include frequent COVID-19 testing, mandates that players on opposing teams stay six feet apart before and after games and allow high-risk players to opt out of playing but still receive their full pay and service time.
Those changes have not been officially announced and remain subject to confirmation by the league.
Shortly before MLB formally announced the season length, the Denver Post reported Rockies all-star outfielder Charlie Blackmon and pitching prospects Phillip Diehl and Ryan Castellani tested positive for the coronavirus following recent workouts at Coors Field.
The report followed an announcement from the Phillies earlier in the day that two players and two staff members tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the number of positive tests in the organization to 12 after five players and three staff members tested positive last week.
The league closed spring training facilities in Arizona and Florida last week for cleaning after personnel at the Phillies, Yankees, and Astros complexes tested positive for COVID-19 and a Blue Jays pitcher exhibited symptoms of the virus.
In its statement, MLB said, “The health and safety of players and employees will remain MLB’s foremost priorities in its return to play. MLB is working with a variety of public health experts, infectious disease specialists and technology providers on a comprehensive approach that aims to facilitate a safe return.”
The announcement concluded with a statement from Commissioner Rob Manfred.
“Major League Baseball is thrilled to announce that the 2020 season is on the horizon. 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.”