MLB has one of its teams that play in a minor league park because of COVID-19. It adopted a number of minor league rules for the season to help plan and accelerate games during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, something else is being taken out of the bush leagues to get baseball for the next two months.
Starting Saturday, MLB doubleheaders this season will consist of two games with seven innings instead of two games with nine innings, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Thursday. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported MLB is expected to announce the change on Friday.
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Passan reported that the MLB Players Association initiated the review, with Executive Director Tony Clark introducing it to MLB Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem as the season’s first doubleheader – a makeup twinbill between the White Sox and Cleveland – played Tuesday. Players and teams were then questioned about the possibility.
Shortened doubleheaders are a response to baseball’s growing planning challenges. Series this week in Miami and Philadelphia were postponed for safety after half of the Marlins’ travel party tested positive for COVID-19 after a weekend trip to Philly. One of the delayed series concerns the Blue Jays, whose home port this season is in Buffalo, NY, home to their Triple-A affiliate, after the Canadian government denied them permission to play in Toronto.
MLB wants to make up for all its delay this season within a tight schedule (teams play 60 games in 66 days), meaning doubleheaders are needed. Baseball also wants to minimize player time in stadiums: the Chicago-Cleveland twinbill took 6 hours and 48 minutes to complete; it began at 3:41 PM ET and ended at 10:29 PM with the conclusion of Game 2. That does not include the time spent by the teams on Progressive Field to prepare for the game.
For Opening Day, teams and players agreed to two other rule changes that have their roots in the minors. Games called up before being official resume at time of postponement rather than overtaking from the beginning, and extra innings begin with a runner on second base and no one out.