MLB returns as players begin training ahead of shortened season

July 1 kicks off the beginning of training camp for Major League Baseball, as players gear up for the league’s proposed 60-game regular season schedule, which is set to begin July 23 and 24.

While the Tampa Bay Rays are expecting perfect attendance according to FOX 13 Sports, some big names elsewhere around the league have already decided to opt out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns. 

Among those choosing not to join their teams are Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Mike Leake, as well as a couple of members of the defending World Series Champion Washington Nationals. First baseman Ryan Zimmerman and pitcher Joe Ross will not be playing this year. 

Colorado Rockies outfielder, Sarasota’s own Ian Desmond wrote a lengthy and wide-ranging statement in an Instagram post this week, announcing plans to sit out the season.

In the post he also discussed his feelings about race in America and in baseball. He also addressed his concerns about the coronavirus while having children at home and a pregnant wife, along with his desire to spend time giving back at the Sarasota little league fields he grew up on. 

As for the Rays, the team on Monday began the camp-opening testing protocol for players, with plans to have everyone tested by July 1. They will reportedly start workouts on Friday for the 37-player squad at Tropicana Field.

Meanwhile, workouts for the 23-players in Port Charlotte are expected to begin the following day. 

The shortened season will be followed by a ten-game playoff. To get everything wrapped by late September, the MLB will have its 60-game season in 66 days.

The league said the vast majority of teams will train at their home stadiums after players and coaching staff on several teams reported experiencing symptoms of the virus. Spring training facilities in Florida and Arizona were shut down in late June. 

Because the league is trying to eliminate as much travel as possible, teams will play most of their games against division rivals and regional teams in the other league, meaning the Rays will be playing against AL and NL East teams.

The National League will adopt a designated hitter as a result of more inter-league play. If a game goes to extra innings, teams will get to start off with a runner on second base in an effort to free up time.