Teams release bunches of minor leaguers

Carlos González
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The last seven months have been brutal for Minor League Baseball. In November, before the coronavirus pandemic caused many businesses to shut down, Major League Baseball was considering eliminating over one-quarter of their minor league teams. The idea received blowback, including condemnation from sitting members of Congress. Then the pandemic happened and MLB shut down operations for the time being. While MLB works on getting some semblance of a 2020 season going, there will be no minor league season. MLB will get to eliminate 40-plus minor league teams after all, aided in part by the coronavirus.

The baseball shutdown has been tough on minor leaguers, who are only paid — and severely underpaid, at that — during the regular season. They are not paid during spring training or offseason. Thankfully, MLB stepped up and agreed to pay minor leaguers $400 per week through May 31. That day is fast approaching. The Athletics announced they will not be paying their minor leaguers after May 31. The Rangers, Padres, White Sox, Braves, Mariners, Marlins, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Mets and Astros announced they will continue their players at least through the end of June. The Marlins, Padres, and Mariners will pay theirs through the end of August.

As part of the March agreement in which MLB ownership and the MLB Players Association agreed on prorated salaries for the 2020 season, if there is one, the 2020 draft was shortened to five rounds. The 2021 could be only 20 rounds. Also part of the agreement, teams can sign an unlimited amount of undrafted players for $20,000, a significant boon for ownership considering sixth-round bonus slots last year ranged from $237,000 to $301,600.

Sadly, there has been more minor league carnage. Many teams have been releasing minor league players recently: the Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Rays, Nationals, Mets, Brewers, Mariners, Orioles, and Reds are who we know of so far, thanks to reporting from Jon Heyman and Robert Murray. Veteran outfielder Carlos González made the most headlines, as he was released from his minor league contract with the Mariners today. An agent Heyman spoke with called the whole thing “literally a war zone out there.” It’s worth noting that some of these releases likely would’ve happened at the end of spring training. [Update: Heyman says González wasn’t released after all.]

The Athletic’s Emily Waldon spoke to another agent who was more colorful about the issue. He said, “So, they can claim they’re still paying guys, but actually threw a third of the system overboard to save what? Less than 300k?” The agent added, “Also, why aren’t the players and leagues webpages pages updated with the releases? So no one can see the carnage? Don’t need to clear 50+ spots before a five-round draft.

The shortened draft is going to cause a lot of players who otherwise would’ve been picked today to play  for junior colleges. Some will give up on their baseball dream altogether. Eliminating more than 40 minor league teams — cutting thousands of baseball jobs in the process — will cause many to pick other lines of work. Cutting players in the middle of a pandemic will have the same effect. Long-term, why would anyone choose to chase a baseball dream? It was a tough road before, but it will be even tougher going forward. Two-sport star Kyler Murray chose to pursue a career in the NFL rather than MLB; it’s easy to see younger kids seeing a more realistic and lucrative road in other sports as well. The owners get to save a negligible amount of money in the short-term, but the popularity of the sport is going to hurt immensely from these self-inflicted austerity measures.

Rutschman has five hits in opener, Orioles outlast Red Sox 10-9

Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

BOSTON – The last time Adley Rutschman recalls feeling this level of emotion on a baseball field was playing in front of intimate, 5,000-seat crowds in college at Oregon State.

He trumped that experience at Fenway Park on Thursday in his first career opening day start.

“This blows that out of the water,” Rutschman said.

Rutschman became the first catcher in major league history with five hits in an opener, and the Baltimore Orioles survived a wild ninth inning to beat the Boston Red Sox 10-9.

“To have that close game in the ninth inning and the crowd get so loud. You kind of sit there and say, ‘This is pretty cool,’” said Rutschman, the top overall pick in the 2019 draft.

Rutschman – who debuted for the Orioles last May and quickly became indispensable to the young, resurgent club – homered in his first at-bat and finished 5-for-5 with a career-best four RBIs and a walk on a chilly day at Fenway Park, with a temperature of 38 degrees at first pitch.

Ramon Urias hit a two-run homer for Baltimore, which finished with 15 hits, nine walks and five stolen bases.

Kyle Gibson (1-0) allowed four runs and six hits over five-plus innings to earn his first opening-day victory since his 2021 All-Star season with Texas. Gibson gave up an RBI groundout in the first inning before retiring nine straight Red Sox hitters.

The Orioles nearly gave the game away in the ninth.

With Baltimore leading 10-7, closer Félix Bautista walked pinch-hitter Raimel Tapia. Alex Verdugo followed with a single and advanced to second on an error by center fielder Cedric Mullins.

Rafael Devers struck out. Justin Turner then reached on an infield single to third when Urias’ throw was wide, scoring Tapia. Masataka Yoshida grounded to shortstop Jorge Mateo, who stepped on second for the force but threw wildly to first, allowing Verdugo to score.

Bautista struck out Adam Duvall on three pitches to end it and earn the save.

The Orioles scored four runs in the fourth and three in the fifth to take an 8-2 lead. Baltimore led 10-4 before Bryan Baker allowed three runs in the eighth to give the Red Sox some hope.

The eighth could have been even better for the Red Sox had Devers, who led off the inning, not become the first player in major league history to strike out on a pitch clock violation. Devers was looking down and kicking debris off his cleats when umpire Lance Barksdale signaled a violation that resulted in strike three.

“There’s no excuse,” said Alex Cora, who dropped to 0-5 in opening-day games as Boston’s manager. “They know the rules.”

Boston offseason addition and two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber (0-1) struggled in his Fenway debut, surrendering five runs on six hits and four walks in 3 1/3 innings.

“Less than ideal,” Kluber said. “Didn’t turn out the way I would have hoped for.”


Red Sox: Christian Arroyo stayed in the game after taking an inadvertent cleat to the side of his head in the second inning. Arroyo was applying a tag to Rutschman at second base as he attempted to stretch out a single. Rutschman’s leg flipped over as he slid awkwardly. … LHP James Paxton was placed on the 15-day inured list (retroactive to March 27) with a strained right hamstring.


Rutschman, one of six Baltimore players making his first opening-day appearance, became the youngest Oriole to homer in his first opening-day at-bat since Cal Ripken Jr. in 1984.


The Orioles took advantage of MLB’s bigger bases – going from 15- to 18-inch squares – that are being used for the first time this season. Baltimore hadn’t stolen five bases in a game since last June 24 against the White Sox. Mullins and Jorge Mateo swiped two bags apiece, and Adam Frazier got a huge jump on his steal against reliever Ryan Brasier. There was nothing Boston catcher Reese McGuire could do to stop them and on the majority of Baltimore’s steals, he didn’t bother to throw.


Right-hander Kaleb Ort and Tapia earned Boston’s final two roster spots to open the season. Tapia got the nod over Jarren Duran, who was sent down to Triple-A Worcester. Ort pitched a scoreless sixth with one strikeout Thursday.


Orioles: RHP Dean Kremer will make is sixth career start against Boston when the three-game series resumes on Saturday. In 11 road starts last season, he went 5-3 with a 3.63 ERA.

Red Sox: LHP Chris Sale, who has pitched in only 11 games over the past three years due to injuries, is set to begin his seventh season in Boston.