The 2020 abbreviated Major League Baseball season is underway, and things have looked different. There are new rules, coronavirus health and safety protocols and games being played at fan-less ballparks. The newest wrinkle is a change to doubleheaders.
The league and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) announced on Friday that they have agreed to a deal to play seven-inning doubleheaders during the 2020 season. The new rule goes into effect on Saturday, Aug. 1. The official release stresses that the changes will be in place for only the abbreviated 2020 season. Having seven-inning doubleheaders instead of a pair of nine-inning games is common practice in the minor leagues. As well, the runner-on-second rule in effect for extra innings will begin with the eighth inning during the abbreviated doubleheaders.
Here's how the new rule for 2020 reads:
Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in Official Baseball Rule 7.01(a) ("Regulation Games"), a regulation game in both games of a double-header shall consist of seven innings, unless extended because of a tie score. In this respect, the "Extra Innings" rule contained in Section 5.1.2 of the 2020 Operations Manual shall apply to each half-inning following the completion of the seventh inning.
Please note that OBR 7.01(c) shall still apply, such that if a game is called, it is a regulation game (1) if five innings have been completed; (2) if the home team has scored more runs in four or four and a fraction half-innings than the visiting team has scored in five completed half-innings; or (3) if the home team scores one or more runs in its half of the fifth inning to tie the score.
In 2020, MLB is putting emphasis on packing in as many games as possible. With the potential shortening of doubleheader play from 18 innings to 14, it could be a possible way to give players (and especially pitchers) more rest and lessen the risk of injury. Cutting down the number of innings played in a short period of time would ideally help players avoid serious injury in this unusual 60-game season with its abbreviated ramp-up period.
The union had asked players to consider the rule adjustments as a way to maximize their health, according to The Athletic's Britt Ghiroli. There is also the possibility that the league will extend the 30-man limit for additional time, per Ghiroli. As of now, the 30-man roster is supposed to drop to 28 players after two weeks, and then down to a 26-man roster two weeks later.
Following the Miami Marlins coronavirus outbreak, MLB revised its schedule to include isolation time for clubs that may have been exposed to COVID-19. The Philadelphia Phillies had two team staffers -- a coach and a home clubhouse attendant -- test positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. Their weekend series with the Toronto Blue Jays (which was set to feature a Saturday doubleheader) was postponed.
Earlier on Friday, a Cardinals-Brewers game was postponed after two St. Louis players tested positive for COVID-19. The teams are currently scheduled to play a doubleheader on Sunday. Both games will be seven innings.