Thanks to COVID-19, it’s not going to be easy to figure out the logistics of the 2021 MLB season. Hell, given that both Arizona and Florida are hot spots and all 30 teams are about to descend upon those two states, spring training is guaranteed to be a challenge on its own. The clock is ticking, too, as pitchers and catchers are supposed to report to camp in nine days even though plans have yet to be set in stone.
On Monday morning, reporter Ken Rosenthal tweeted that MLB is getting closer to releasing a revised spring training schedule for Florida’s Grapefruit League. In an effort to reduce travel, teams will be restricted to playing opponents located on the same coast. No plan has been announced yet for Arizona’s Cactus League, but at least that’s slightly less pressing. Some of these complexes in Florida are located a long, long bus ride away from each other, whereas most of the Arizona sites are spread out in a slightly more reasonable fashion.
Here’s the general idea of the plan:
MLB in process of finalizing revised Grapefruit League schedule, placing teams in separate “pods” on east and west coasts of Florida, sources tell me and @MattGelb. West-coast teams in FL will play 28 games and east-coast teams 24, making up rest with intrasquad-type matchups.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 8, 2021
Since the Yankees’ spring training complex in Tampa is located on the west coast of Florida, they will fall into the 28-game category. Originally, they had been scheduled for 31 games, but I don’t think anyone will mourn the loss of a handful of exhibition contests in exchange for at least a mild measure of improved safety. Let them do intrasquads to fill out the rest of the docket.
The games themselves might not resemble typical spring training, either. Pirates beat writer Jason Mackey reported that they might be shortened to keep the focus on getting reps rather than forcing nine innings when it’s not really needed:
Also sounds like MLB may be very lenient/flexible with spring training format. Shortened innings, games on the table. Idea to prioritize getting work in over traditional game format.— Jason Mackey (@JMackeyPG) February 8, 2021
As noted by MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch, the revised schedule means that the Yankees will be seeing a lot of the Phillies, Blue Jays, Tigers, and Pirates. Hopefully, we’ll have more information soon, but in the meantime, get ready to see a lot of old pal Joe Girardi and company this spring.
I, for one, can’t wait to enjoy the thrills of garbage-time slugging from the likes of Brandon Lockridge.