SPORTS-BBO-MBL-PROPOSAL-MS

A short season means fewer games to reach personal milestones for 40-year-old Nelson Cruz (left), but a smaller sample size in which to hit for a high average for a line-drive hitter such as Luis Arraez. (Jeff Wheeler/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

 Players signed off on Major League Baseball’s health and safety protocols and agreed to report to training camps at their home stadiums by July 1 in preparation for a pandemic-shortened regular season of 60 games.

“All remaining issues have been resolved and players are reporting to training camps,” the MLB Players Association tweeted early Tuesday evening.

The regular season is expected to start July 23 or July 24 without fans and run through late September.

The postseason is expected to remain at 10 teams – the sides had discussed an increase to a 16-team field – but the designated hitter could be added to the National League in an effort to protect pitcher health.

Yuba City High graduate and Colorado Rockies bullpen coach Darryl Scott said a DH in the National League makes sense both this year and beyond

“A DH in the National League helps the pitching staff,” said Scott a ex-big leaguer in the 90s with the California Angels. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t ever see pitchers hit again.” 

As someone who works with hurlers in a hitter friendly ballpark like Colorado, Scott said the environment of Coors Field makes “it tough on pitchers.” 

Scott said a 30-person roster through the first 15 games will also help pitchers get through the first couple weeks of the season. 

“It means the starter doesn’t have to go as deep in the game,” Scott said. 

Scott said overall everyone is excited to get off and running. 

As far as safety is concerned, the final agreement will allow any player who is considered high-risk for severe complications due to COVID-19 to opt out of the season and still collect his salary and service time.

According to one report, MLB agreed to the union’s proposal that all players who co-habitate with a high-risk individual, including a pregnant spouse, have the right to opt out and be paid while receiving service time. The wife of Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout, a three-time American League most valuable player, is due to have the couple’s first child in August.

The usual 162-game, six-month marathon will be replaced by a 60-game, two-month sprint that could allow a lesser team to ride a hot streak into the playoffs.

“There are going to be surprises, that I can guarantee you,” Hall of Fame pitcher and television broadcaster John Smoltz said Tuesday on a conference call for an upcoming celebrity golf tournament. “And those surprises might be refreshing in a sense that you didn’t see that coming three months ago.”

The Dodgers, with their starting rotation of Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, David Price, Alex Wood and Julio Urias, have such a deep pitching staff that 2018 National League All-Star Ross Stripling probably will open the season in the bullpen.

The Los Angeles Angels’ rotation is thinner, with Shohei Ohtani (Tommy John surgery) and Griffin Canning (elbow) returning from injuries and Andrew Heaney, Julio Teheran and Dylan Bundy expected to round out the group.

Yuba City High graduate and former Gold Sox player Max Stassi is currently a catcher for the Angels. 

“There could be some scenarios where the pitching staffs that wouldn’t be able to do what they could over 162 games might do something different for 60 games,” Smoltz said. “So, I think you’ll see some creativity that will allow a team to (improve their chances of making) the playoffs.”

Scott’s Colorado Rockies finished fourth in the NL West with a 71-91 record last season but went 37-23 during an early 60-game stretch from April 14-June 21. 

Appeal Sports Reporter Jeff Larson contributed to this report. 

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