FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Major League Baseball season will not begin until mid-May at the earliest.
Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement Monday saying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that there not be gatherings of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks meant baseball games would not be played through at least that time frame. That would mean May 16 or later.
Opening Day already had been pushed back two weeks from March 26 to April 9.
“With the CDC announcement, we are not going to be playing April 9,” Manfred told reporters in Jupiter, Fla., moments after meeting with MLB players association chief Tony Clark. “We are not going to announce an alternate Opening Day at this point.”
Spring training camps have been closed since Thursday, with the league discouraging players from organized workouts at team facilities. Since then, thousands of players have returned home or headed to their city they play in, with small groups of players remaining at facilities.
Twins officials, including President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey, left Florida and returned to Minnesota on Monday.
The MLB statement also said, “The commitment of the clubs is to play as many baseball games in 2020 as we can, consistent with the safety of our players and fans.”
The shortest MLB season came in 1981, when a strike limited most teams to 107 games. The Twins played 113 games in 1994 before a strike ended the season Aug. 11. When play resumed in 1995, teams played 144 games.
“We are encouraging players to make a decision as to where they want to be over an extended period of time,” Manfred said, “and get to that location as soon as possible.”
Under an agreement last week, between MLB and the players' association, players are allowed to decide whether to stay at spring training or go home, but some teams have ignored that deal and told players to leave.
“There should be no organized activities in the camps,” Manfred told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We did agree with the MLBPA that spring training sites would remain open, but the thought there is with a skeleton crew, really to give players some place to use a gym, as opposed to being forced out into a public gym and the like. And we're really encouraging players to make a decision as to where they want to be over an extended period of time and get to that location as soon as possible.”
The players' association sent an email to agents on Monday saying that for players who went home or to their team's regular-season city it would pay $1,100 allowances through April 9 to players on 40-man rosters as of March 13. That amount also would go to players with minor league contracts at big league spring training who were on 40-man rosters at the end of last season.
The union is negotiating with MLB over resetting the dates for players with opt-out clauses in their deals, and the sides are likely to agree on a roster freeze. They are discussing the possibility of payments to major league players who have not reached the point of big-money deals to make up for paychecks they won't be getting in April and May.
This year marked the earliest opening day other than for international games. As it stood, Game 7 of the World Series would have been Oct. 28, and teams and players could push the postseason into November.
Any change to the 162-game schedule would necessitate bargaining over an array of issues, including when and how much players get paid and how much major league service they are credited for. Service time determines eligibility for free agency and salary arbitration.
Players made a counteroffer to MLB on Sunday, and management told the union it would not respond until Tuesday at the earliest.
Clubs also were told to call MLB if they wanted assistance with credit lines, a person familiar with Manfred's call said, speaking on condition of anonymity because that detail was not announced.
The Associated Press contributed to this report