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MLB pushing back start of the season to mid-May at earliest due to coronavirus

An aerial view of Dodger Stadium.
Dodger Stadium is scheduled to play host to the 2020 MLB All-Star Game in July.
(Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

The All-Star Game is coming to Dodger Stadium on July 14.

For now.

Major League Baseball acknowledged Monday that the start of its season would be delayed for months, not weeks. The league offered no timetable but said it remains “committed to playing as many games as possible when the season begins.”

In accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the earliest MLB could begin the season is May 9, although that appears unlikely.

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“Obviously, with the CDC announcement, we’re not going to be playing April 9,” commissioner Rob Manfred said at the St. Louis Cardinals’ spring home in Florida. “We’re not going to announce an ultimate opening day at this point. We’ll have to see how things develop.”

Estimates for opening day among front office employees, agents and players range from Memorial Day weekend to the Fourth of July, raising the question: Could the first All-Star Game scheduled for Dodger Stadium in 40 years be delayed this year, or rescheduled for another year? On Monday, the league said only that it remains hopeful of playing the All-Star Game in Los Angeles this year.

MLB scouts can’t evaluate college and high school players during the coronavirus shutdown, casting doubt on whether the June amateur draft can be held.

The challenge in projecting a timeline for reopening training camps and starting the season is that no one can project the timeline for the progression of the coronavirus.

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Measures intended to slow the spread of the virus — staying home, calling off public events, closing bars and theaters and other gathering places — indicate the virus should peak later, even if the peak is not as great. CNN reported Monday that White House estimates of when the virus might peak in the United States range from mid-April to mid-June.

Just as the original announcement to delay the season followed various city and state directives that would have restricted many ballparks from use anyway, Monday’s announcement followed Sunday’s recommendation from the CDC that sporting events and other large gatherings be canceled or postponed through at least May 9.

In its statement, the league said “the opening of the 2020 regular season will be pushed back in accordance with that guidance.” The league had said last week that it would postpone opening day for “at least two weeks,” or from March 26 to April 9.

With the Angels optioning Jaime Barria to triple A, there’s a four-way competition for the final two spots in the rotation.

The usual season is 162 games. In 1995, following the settlement of a player strike, the season was cut to 144 games.

In 1981, when a player strike wiped out almost two months of the season, MLB played a split season in which teams averaged 107 games, and the All-Star Game kicked off the second half of the season.

The league also plans to offer recommendations to teams about financial compensation for game-day workers. The Dodgers and Angels have not said how they might help; the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays have.

“There are people who will need that help,” St. Louis Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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On Monday, MLB and the players’ union jointly announced a $1-million donation targeted toward vulnerable populations during the coronavirus outbreak. The donation will be split among Feeding America, for use by food banks helping to feed families with children suddenly displaced by school closures, and Meals on Wheels, for expansion of its meal delivery program to senior citizens.


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