Alternate, developmental websites to return for MLB groups in 2021, as Triple-A season will get delayed by at the least one month, league says

Alternate, developmental sites to return for MLB teams in 2021, as Triple-A season gets delayed by at least one month, league says

6:05 pm ET

  • Jeff PassanESPN

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      ESPN MLB Insider
      Author of “The Arm: In the Billion Dollar Secret of the Most Valuable Goods in Sports”

The Major League Baseball teams will operate alternate locations similar to those used during the 2020 season shortened by the pandemic. This long-awaited move will delay the start of the Triple A season by at least a month, the league confirmed on Tuesday.

“This is a prudent move to end the major league and minor league seasons as safely as possible. We look forward to having fans at the country’s baseball stadiums again soon,” said Morgan Sword, executive vice president of baseball Operations at MLB statement.

After ESPN reported the impending delay on Tuesday, the league sent out a memo confirming the move to the teams. While Triple-A, the top tier of minor league baseball, should begin on April 6, the games will be postponed around the same time, according to sources, as Double-A and Class A are expected to begin in the first week of May . MLB’s opening day will not be affected by the move and will remain on pace for 15 games – most of them in stadiums with fans – on April 1st.

Some executives told ESPN they believe the alternate location could last longer in the season. The reason for the revitalization of websites that serve as training facilities for players most likely to be called up to major leagues is because of its proximity to the teams’ home stadiums and to make it easier to monitor testing and coronavirus logs, according to sources. Additionally, triple-A teams travel on a commercial airline, while major league teams can switch from hotel to stadium to private flights on escape days.

Teams are confident the delay will allow players to be vaccinated before they are sent to their minor league affiliates, which came under the MLB’s direction this winter. Vaccinated players would allay team concerns about players coming from locations in small leagues and joining clubs immediately with no quarantine period.

The rapid pace of vaccination across the country has encouraged league and team leaders, and coupled with the decline in COVID-19 cases across the country, there is growing optimism about baseball’s prospects of playing a full season with limited problems. Spring training games got off to a smooth start, and officials were stunned by the low number of COVID-19 cases on the intake test this spring – 20 positive tests out of more than 20,000, the league said.

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However, MLB’s belief that April will likely be the toughest month for COVID-19 concerns has not subsided since attempts were made to get the MLB Players Association to agree on a month-long delay in the season. The union rejected the idea. The control of the small leagues by MLB enables the unilateral implementation of guidelines.

To make up for the lost games in April, the Triple A teams expect their season to begin in September – later than the standard minor league year, which usually ends at the beginning of the month.

The number of players at each alternate location is unclear, but sources believe the locations house around two dozen players – a typical triple-A roster. Last year, with a limited number of players admitted to other locations, the teams opted for a mix of players ready for the major league and potential players they didn’t want to lose if they didn’t play for a year .

It’s more likely that this incarnation of the old site skews older Major League veterans and aspiring prospects on the cusp of the Major League. Lower division players in the lower division plan to join spring training in late March after the big division teams leave the facilities and will prepare for their seasons in Arizona and Florida.