NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Baseball revamped its spring training exhibition schedule because of the pandemic, cutting travel for Florida-based teams in an effort to minimize coronavirus risks.
College baseball teams, which often play big league clubs but are not subject to major league testing protocols, were dropped from the revised schedules announced Friday.
Split-squad games, traditionally used in the first half of the exhibition season to allow evaluation of more players, also were eliminated.
Florida-based teams may decide to dress at their own ballparks and travel in uniform for road exhibitions to increase distancing while putting on uniforms. Arizona-based teams traditionally dress at home and take batting practice at home, then travel for road exhibitions.
Pitchers and catchers open spring training workouts Wednesday, and the exhibition season starts Feb. 28, two days later than initially announced on Sept. 16.
The regular season remains on track to start April 1 after the Major League Baseball Players Association rejected the clubs’ proposal to delay opening day until April 22 and cut each team’s schedule from 162 games to 154. The rejected plan would have pushed back the start of spring training until March 22.
Teams were divided into three groups for the Grapefruit League season to eliminate longer bus rides:
— Florida East Coast: Houston, Miami, New York Mets, St. Louis, Washington
— Florida West Coast: Baltimore, Detroit, New York Yankees, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Toronto
— Southwest Florida: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay
Baltimore, based in Sarasota, and Pittsburgh, in Bradenton, are part of both West Coast groups.
Because of the changes, most teams have more days without exhibitions than usual once schedules start for the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues. While most teams usually have one or two such days during most spring trainings, Washington has six this year.