Pools, taxis and lists, MLB is doing its best to get baseball to the people in 2020.
While there are some rule changes that were in place for a normal year, there are a lot more coming to fans in this year’s shortened, 60-game season. Along with certain player restrictions thanks to MLB’s over 100-page health and safety protocol manual, there are lots more rule changes coming your way in this sure-to-be strange season.
Here’s what you need to know when players take the field again:
MLB coronavirus rules 2020
It’s hot out, and you mentioned something about pools …
Might sound refreshing to you, but it’s not the inflatable one in your backyard.
During the year, players on an MLB team’s 40-man roster plus an additional 20 players of their choosing — whether it’s from their farm system, free agency or otherwise — will be available for use, comprising a team’s 60-man player pool. This is mostly in place of the lack of MiLB season happening this year and the looming threat of coronavirus.
The player pools are amendable and teams can add and subtract from them as necessary via standard transactions throughout the season.
So, 60 players will be in the dugout?
Not quite. On July 23 or 24, teams will have 30 players on their Opening Day roster. After two weeks, the rosters will be trimmed to 28, and two weeks following that, the roster will be trimmed to 26. On days that there are doubleheaders, the roster will be expanded to 27. Those extra players will likely hang out at team’s Triple-A affiliate stadiums (named Alternate Training Site).
Of course, those game-day numbers do not include the taxi squad.
Sorry, the taxi squad?
Yep. During a team’s road trip, a three-man taxi squad will be on hand to replace any injured or COVID-19 positive player. The three players from the taxi squad will come from a team’s player pool.
The idea for a taxi squad present is to prevent players from having to travel by plane to get to their team on short notice. Each taxi squad must include one catcher, but the other two players can be a pitcher or a position player. Expect to see taxi squads of one of each player type this year.
Should have called it the Uber Unit.
Listen, I don’t make the rules. Take it up with Manfred.
Anyway, what will teams do for COVID-19 positive players?
If a player tests positive for the coronavirus, he will be put on a separate COVID-19 list and must test negative twice before being able to return to the team. There is no minimum or maximum for players on the COVID-19 list, and not all players who are placed on the COVID-19 list will be named.
Any other changes I need to know about?
In addition to the other rule changes MLB is implementing for the 2020 season, the league is also going to enact the runner-on-second in extra-innings rule. That is, a runner will be placed on second base every half inning after the ninth. The idea is to the expedite the end of games in a shortened season, to keep players fresh during the 60-game sprint.
Man that sucks, but hey, the DH is coming to the National League!
Things to be excited about, right? In 2020, the DH will be utilized in both leagues. This is part of MLB’s desire to keep players healthy and safe throughout the season and protect pitchers a bit more this year. This is just in place for the 2020 season, but don’t be surprised when — not if — the DH ultimately comes to the senior circuit in the coming years.
That is cause for celebration.
Don’t say that word, since MLB isn’t allowing any kind of celebration this season.
In fact, there’s a bunch of things players won’t be able to do this year, per the league’s coronavirus guidelines. In the league’s 100-plus page health and safety protocols book, here are some of the things the league answered:
- No celebrations. No high fives, butt slaps, hugs — none of it.
- No spitting, no chewing tobacco, no sunflower seeds
- No lineup exchange before the game.
- Showers at the stadium are discouraged, but not prohibited.
- Players not expected to play in the game will sit in the stands, exercising proper social distancing.
- All team personnel not in the game will wear masks.
- A ball touched by multiple players will be taken out of play.
- Pre and postgame meals will be served in to-go containers.
- Pitchers can utilize a wet rag in pocket as opposed to licking fingers.
- Batting team must retrieve their own fielding equipment at the conclusion of a half-inning, meaning teammates can’t grab it for them.
Oh, yeah. It’s gonna take a miracle to pull this off. Baseball’s weird, man, and it’s going to be exceptionally weird in 2020.