FORT MYERS, Fla. — Major League Baseball announced Thursday that it has delayed the start of the regular season by at least two weeks and suspended the remainder of the spring training schedule as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision by commissioner Rob Manfred was reached after consulting with all 30 teams and the MLB Players Association.
A statement from MLB said, “This action is being taken in the interests of the safety and well-being of our players, clubs, and our millions of loyal fans.”
It will be the first delay to start a season since 1995, when a strike shortened the season to 144 games. Opening Day was April 26 that season. A similar schedule could be adopted this season depending on the extent of what has become a national emergency.
‘The health and safety of our fans, players, and employees is of paramount importance. We thank them for their patience and support during this unprecedented time. We support Major League Baseball’s decision to suspend spring training games and to delay the start of the 2020 regular season. We hope our fans and everyone across the country remain safe as we all work together through this challenging time.’
Statement from the Red Sox
That the NBA, NHL, and MLS suspended their respective seasons gave baseball little choice but to follow suit. Minor League Baseball also indefinitely delayed the start of its season.
MLB’s regular season was scheduled to start on March 26 with the Red Sox in Toronto among the games that day. The home opener at Fenway Park was to have been April 2 against the Chicago White Sox.
MLB said it would announce its plans for the regular season when that becomes possible.
“The health and safety of our fans, players, and employees is of paramount importance,” said a statement from the Red Sox. “We thank them for their patience and support during this unprecedented time. We support Major League Baseball’s decision to suspend spring training games and to delay the start of the 2020 regular season. We hope our fans and everyone across the country remain safe as we all work together through this challenging time.”
Red Sox president Sam Kennedy and chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom did not respond to requests for comment.
It’s uncertain what happens next for the hundreds of players, coaches, and staff members in Arizona and Florida. MLB’s release said, “Guidance related to daily operations and workouts will be relayed to clubs in the coming days.”
Red Sox players, coaches and staffers have a meeting scheduled for Friday to discuss the situation and what the team’s plan will be.
The Dodgers, Cubs, and other teams have said their facilities would open for workouts and intrasquad games. That is expected to be the industry norm, although players will not be mandated to stay.
“Players are of course disappointed they won’t be able to compete on the field,” MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said. “At the same time, they recognize the importance of public health and safety.”
Teams across the game, including the Red Sox, pulled their professional and amateur scouts off the road or restricted their air travel.
The Red Sox had a scheduled day off on Thursday, their only one of spring training. To stay on schedule, five pitchers reported to JetBlue Park to participate in an intrasquad game in the main stadium. Nate Eovaldi and Brandon Workman were part of that group.
As would usually be the case, the game was played without fans.
“Honestly, whatever the league decides to do, that's what we'll do,” Workman said. “I am sure they are doing their due diligence to make sure what we're doing is safe, but also in the best interest of the fans and everybody.”
The Sox had 13 spring training games scheduled over 12 days starting on Friday, seven of them at JetBlue Park. Those will not be played.
“I understand you have to look about for everybody,” Eovaldi said. “Everybody. We're trying to do everything we can in the clubhouse and prevent it. We've got wipes and sanitizer everywhere. It's a very serious situation.”
The Red Sox said spring training season ticket-holders would be issued a credit on their account for unused games good for 2021. Single-game tickets for spring training purchased directly from the Sox will be refunded.
Regular-season tickets will be addressed once MLB determines when the season will be played.
The Red Sox also suspended all tours and events at Fenway Park and JetBlue Park until further notice.