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Start of Triple-A season delayed, alternate sites will return

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Oklahoma City will now begin its 2021 season on May 6

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Remember those minor league schedules that were unveiled a few weeks back? The start of the Triple-A season will be delayed about a month.

The original plan for 2021 had Triple-A schedules starting as early as April 6 (Oklahoma City’s schedule was to start on April 8), with Double-A and both Class-A teams starting their seasons on May 4. But now Triple-A will instead start in that first week of May, as first reported by Jeff Passan at ESPN:

“This is a prudent step to complete the major league and minor league seasons as safely as possible, and we look forward to having fans back in ballparks across the country very soon,” Morgan Sword, MLB’s executive VP of baseball operations, said in a statement.

The start of the major league season isn’t expected to be affected.

Oklahoma City will now begin its season on Thursday, May 6 in Round Rock, with a home opener slated for one week later against Sacramento. The originally-planned 142-game schedule is now reduced to 120 games, ending on September 21.

Courtesy of Oklahoma City Dodgers

The health and safety protocols agreed to by MLB and the MLBPA allowed for the commissioner to postpone the start of the Triple-A season, provided he inform teams of the decision by March 15.

This will necessitate the use of alternate sites, which were prevalent during the 2020 season, and all relatively close to teams’ home stadiums. The Dodgers haven’t yet decided if they will use Class-A Rancho Cucamonga or the team facilities at Camelback Ranch in Arizona.

“We’ve still got four or five weeks to ultimately decide,” manager Dave Roberts said Tuesday. “But I think both locations work for us.”

Roster implications?

With no actual minor league games for the first five weeks of the major league season, it might make even more sense for one or two of Tony Gonsolin or Dustin May (or Julio Urías, though from where I’m sitting, he’s probably in the rotation) if they don’t make the opening day starting rotation.

Roberts said Tuesday that it was possible any of them could be on the roster, regardless of role.

“We open up in Colorado. Starting pitchers aren’t built up where they will be eventually during the season, so to have as many guys that can take down innings is obviously very important,” Roberts said. “When you’re looking at two starters that don’t make the rotation, it certainly makes sense to have guys that can log some innings.”