Spring Training got off to a strong start this week, and the early COVID testing numbers have given hope that the season should go on without any major concerns. Even so, it appears that Major League Baseball will make some last-minute changes to ensure that this remains the case.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported late Tuesday afternoon that the league would be delaying the start of the Triple-A season, effectively pushing it back a full month.
Alternate sites are coming back — and the AAA season, which was scheduled to begin April 6, will be delayed for at least a month, sources tell ESPN.
News at ESPN on the reason for delay, the wait for vaccines and how this alt site will differ from 2020's: https://t.co/zRRT6mn7Nz
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 2, 2021
Morgan Sword, MLB’s executive vice president of baseball operations released the following statement.
This is a prudent step to complete the major league and minor league seasons as safely as possible, and we look forward to having fans back in ballparks across the country very soon.
The delay of the minor league season is expected to lower the risk taken by minor leaguers, who fly commercial when traveling between cities. By delaying the start for another month, the league is hoping to give more time for players to be eligible to be vaccinated, also erasing the need for players to quarantine before joining the team if called up throughout the year.
One positive of having these alternate sites is the close proximity to the major league team, as Passan notes. A local training site would allow the team to keep a close eye on their top talent as they transition from a shortened year to the grind of a full season. The facilities at USC served as the Dodgers’ alternate training site last season and could be the route they go with once again, although nothing has been officially announced by the team to this point.
Dave Roberts mentioned Camelback Ranch in Glendale, AZ, and LoanMart Field in Rancho Cucamonga, home of the single-A Quakes.
The Dodgers will have Camelback Ranch and/or Loanmart Field in Rancho (single-a) as Alternate site options.
— Clint Pasillas (FRG) (@realFRG) March 3, 2021
As long as the delay is minimal, it would seem likely that the team uses the month of April as an extended audition for players on the verge of cracking the major league roster. But with some executives believing that these sites could last further into the season, this could be a way for the team to have a taxi squad at the ready should the need for fresh players arise.
The addition of the alternate sites is not expected to have any effect on the start of the MLB regular season, which is set to kick off on April 1st as the Dodgers take on the Rockies at Coors Field.