MLB proposes delaying start to April 28, cut to 154 games

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Major League Baseball has proposed a one-month delay in starting spring training due to the coronavirus pandemic and pushing back opening day to April 28, two people familiar with the plan told The Associated Press.

Under the plan presented to the players’ union on Friday, the regular season would be cut from 162 games to 154.

Also, the playoffs would be expanded from 10 teams to 14, the designated hitter would extend to the National League for the second straight season and MLB would keep the experimental rules for seven-inning doubleheaders and beginning extra innings with a runner on second base.

All players would report for spring training on March 22, back from the current calendar that calls a voluntary reporting date of Feb. 17 for pitchers, catchers and injured players, and Feb. 22 for others.

Opening day would be pushed back 27 days from its currently scheduled April 1 and the regular season would end Oct. 10 instead of Oct. 3. The postseason would extend into November.

The people familiar with the plan spoke on condition of anonymity Sunday because no announcements were made. The sides have not discussed the proposal with each other since MLB made it.

A day before the plan was presented, Commissioner Rob Manfred said he would like to know by his regular Monday call with owners if the union had interest in delaying the start of spring training.

The reasoning behind the delay would be to gain time for more vaccinations and better assess the health situation.

Seven teams in each league would make the playoffs, and only the division winner with the best record would receive a bye in the best-of-three first round. There would be a selection show in which the seeded teams would be able to, in order of percentage, select their first-round opponent. The three advancing teams in each league and the one with a bye would advance to the best-of-five Division Series, starting the traditional rounds of the postseason.

While the plan says players would receive 100% of pay if all 154 scheduled games are played, Manfred would have an expanded right to stop spring training, the regular season or the postseason under certain conditions. Those would be if government restrictions prevent five or more teams from playing home games even without fans, if government rules restrict travel in the United States, if Manfred determines after consultation with medical experts and the union there is an unreasonable safety risk to players or staff or if the number of regular major leaguers unavailable because of COVID-19 undermines completive integrity.

Each team would start with 18 scheduled days off, and each team would be allowed to be scheduled up to 12 split doubleheaders.

Players usually are reluctant to agree to split doubleheaders because of the lengthy day at the ballpark each entails

The regular season would be compressed to 154 games in 166 days from 162 games in 186 days.

The World Series would be scheduled to end in the Nov. 10 range, with the exact time depending on discussions with broadcast partners.

As part of the plan, owners would guarantee a postseason players’ pool of 60% of the gate of the first two first-round games plus $80 million for the remainder of the postseason, matching the 2019 pool.

Players previously rejected a proposal teams made Jan. 5 for expanded playoffs in exchange for extending the DH to the National League.

Last season was cut from 162 games per team to 60, and the postseason was expanded to 16 teams and ended Oct. 27 when the Los Angeles Dodges beat the Tampa Bay Rays in World Series Game 6. Players received 60/162nds of their salaries.

No fans were allowed during the regular season last year, which because of the pandemic started July 23 rather than March 26. About 11,000 fans per game attended the NL Championship Series and World Series, both played at the neutral site in Arlington, Texas. In a deal for expanded 16-team playoffs in 2020, MLB guaranteed a postseason players’ pool of $50 million.

Pujols has 2 more RBIs, Cardinals beat Pirates 8-7 in 10

Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
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PITTSBURGH – Albert Pujols drove in two more runs and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 in 10 innings Tuesday night.

Pujols hit a two-run single in the third inning to push his career total to 2,218 RBIs. That came a night after he broke a tie with Babe Ruth for second place on the career list. Hank Aaron holds the record with 2,287.

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol then removed the 42-year-old Pujols at the end of the inning. St. Louis opens postseason play Friday when it hosts a best-of-three National League wild-card series.

Juan Yepez gave the Cardinals the win when he hit a tiebreaking single with one in the 10th inning off Chase De Jong (6-3) to score automatic runner Ben Deluzio.

“Tonight was interesting because you’re fairly scripted in who you want to use and who you don’t want to use and what you want tomorrow to look like so you can get ready for Friday,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “It was a good one to still figure out a way to come out on top.”

The Cardinals threw out the potential tying run at home in the bottom of the 10th when automatic runner Kevin Newman tried to score from second base on Oneil Cruz‘s line single off the glove of first baseman Alec Burleson. The ball deflected to second baseman Brendon Donovan, who threw home to catcher Andrew Knizner.

The Pirates challenged the call, but it was upheld on video review.

“I thought we were going to get it overturned,” Newman said. “I just thought he didn’t tag me until he got higher up on the body.”

It was the Pirates’ 100th loss, the second year in a row they have reached that mark.

The Cardinals got two hits each from Donovan, Corey Dickerson, Knizner and Paul DeJong.

Cruz had three hits for the Pirates and Bryan Reynolds, Rodolfo Castro, Jack Suwinski, Ke'Bryan Hayes and Ji-Hwan Bae added two apiece. Miguel Andujar drove in two runs.

Chris Stratton (10-4) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

“They weren’t the prettiest two innings I’ve ever pitched but I got a great play from the defense in the 10th inning to help me out,” Stratton said. “It was a good play all the way around.’

Pujols’ hit put the Cardinals ahead 3-1 but the Pirates answered with six runs in the bottom of the third. Andujar’s run-scoring double highlighted an inning that includes RBI singles by Castro, Suwinski, Ben Gamel and Bae.

The Cardinals then scored four runs in the seventh inning to tie the score at 7-all. Donovan hit an RBI single, Dickerson drove in two runs with a double and the tying run scored on a throwing error by Cruz, the rookie shortstop.

Both starting pitchers lasted just 2 2/3 innings. The Cardinals’ Dakota Hudson was rocked for seven runs and nine hits while the Pirates’ JT Brubaker allowed three runs on four hits.

Brubaker was activated from the injured list before the game. He had been out since Sept. 16 with right lat discomfort.

HELSLEY HURT

Reliever Ryan Helsley, the Cardinals’ closer, left in the eighth inning with a jammed right middle finger. Helsley was injured after catching a line drive by Bae and using his hands to brace himself while dodging a piece of a broken bat.

Helsley said he expects to be ready to pitch Friday.

“I don’t think there was anything super wrong with it,” Helsley said. `Just give it some rest and let it resolve itself.”

ROSTER MOVES

The Pirates optioned right-hander Roansy Contreras to Triple-A Indianapolis to clear a roster spot for Brubaker. They also recalled infielder/outfielder Tucapita Marcano from Indianapolis and optioned catcher Jose Godoy to the same club.

PIRATES AWARDS

Center fielder Bryan Reynolds was voted the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, emblematic of the Pirates’ MVP, by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Mitch Keller won the Steve Blass Award for best pitcher. Former infielder Michael Chavis was voted the Chuck Tanner Good Guy Award.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: OF Tyler O'Neill (strained right hamstring) has been ruled out for the wild-card series but St. Louis is hopeful he can play in the NLDS round if it advances. . 3B Nolan Arenado (left quadriceps tightness) missed his second straight game but could play Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: Have not decided on a starter for Wednesday, though Marmol said LHP Matthew Liberatore (2-1, 5.46) and RHP Jake Woodford (4-0, 2.33) are possibilities.

Pirates: RHP Johan Oviedo (4-3, 3.12), who was acquired from the Cardinals on Aug. 1, gets the start.