League eyes July 23 or 24 start

The 2020 Major League Baseball regular season will consist of 60 games, and will start on July 23 or 24.

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June 24, 2020 - 10:14 AM

Rob Manfred, commissioner of Major League Baseball (MLB), attends the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 12, 2019 in Sun Valley, Idaho. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images/TNS

NEW YORK (AP) — 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.

A dramatically altered season with games full of new rules was the final result of failed financial negotiations. But for fans eager to see any baseball this year, at least now they can look forward to opening day.

The announcement by MLB came while more players continue to test positive for the virus — at least seven on the Philadelphia Phillies alone. And a stark realization remained, that if health situations deteriorate, all games could still be wiped out.

“What happens when we all get it?” Milwaukee pitcher Brett Anderson tweeted Monday.

One day after the players’ association rejected an economic agreement and left open the possibility of a grievance seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, the bickering sides agreed on an operations manual. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred then unilaterally imposed the schedule, his right under a March agreement with the union.

In a twist, the sides expanded the designated hitter to games between National League teams for the first time and instituted the radical innovation of starting extra innings with a runner on second base.

Playoff teams remain at 10 for now — there is still talk of a possible expansion. The rejected deal had called for 16 teams.

Players will start reporting for the resumption of training on July 1. It remains to be seen which players will report back to work — high-risk individuals are allowed to opt out and still receive salary and service time, but others who sit out get neither money nor the service credit needed for eligibility for free agency and salary arbitration.

Each team will play 10 games against each of its four division rivals and 20 total games against the five clubs in the corresponding regional division in the other league, according to details obtained by The Associated Press.

This will be MLB’s shortest season since 1878, a schedule of such brevity that some fans may question the legitimacy of stats and records.

No matter what, the season will be among the most unusual ever for a sport that takes pride in the race for titles being a marathon and not a sprint: Washington started 19-31 and 27-33 last year but finished 93-69 to earn a wild card and won a seven-game World Series for its first title.

“There’s a lot more pressure because in a 60-game schedule, I think that you have 25% more teams that can compete, that had no idea they were going to compete for 162 games,” said Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz, now a broadcaster.

The trade deadline will be Aug. 31 and the deadline to be in an organization for postseason eligibility is Sept. 15. Teams can resume making trades Friday, when rosters will no longer be frozen.

Active rosters will be 30 players 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.

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