Major League Baseball informed teams on Tuesday that they would implement the use of alternative sites as they did during the 2020 season, a move that effectively pushes back the start of the Minor League Baseball season by at least a month.
ESPN first reported the news.
MLB Opening Day is set for April 1, and with the Triple-A schedule being delayed from April 6 to May 5, the need for alternate sites arose. Double-A and Class A schedules are set to begin around the same time.
This would push back the Triple-A season to October. The Nashville Sounds were scheduled to open their season at First Horizon Park on April 6 against the Norfolk Tides as part of a season-opening six-game homestand. The delay means the Sounds will go 610 days between games at their home stadium.
"This is a prudent step to complete the major league and minor league seasons as safely as possible,” Morgan Sword, MLB executive vice president of baseball operations, said in a statement. “And we look forward to having fans back in ballparks across the country very soon.”
The use of alternate sites benefits MLB teams in a number of ways. The close proximity to each club’s home ballpark makes it easier to oversee COVID-19 testing and reduce the amount of travel that players in Triple-A would be exposed to.
The one-month delay in the start of the minor league schedule could allow enough time for minor league players to be vaccinated before being assigned to their affiliate teams. This would help increase the number of games teams could play in front of fans, generating revenue at the gate that was lost during the 2020 season.
MLB announced out of 20,000 COVID-19 tests administered so far in Spring Training, just 20 have come back positive.
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_