Overview of 2020 MLB rule changes

Here’s an overview of the rule changes added specifically to deal with the COVID pandemic and the shortened 2020 season. In addition to these, there are a number of rules designed to limit physical contact (such as no fighting, no getting close to umpires, etc), but I’m only listing changes affecting gameplay, schedules, and rosters.

In-game changes

Universal DH. This means all games, including those between National League teams, will have the DH. This is supposed to be temporary, with the National League reverting back to no DH in 2021.

Extra Innings – runner on second to start each inning. The runner would be the player that made the last out in the previous inning.

Position players will be allowed to pitch. A rule that was supposed to virtually eliminate this was supposed to take effect this year, but will not be implemented until next year. This is to protect pitchers who may yet be fully stretched out for the season.

If a game is suspended due to rain before it is official (before the top of the 5th is completed), when it is made up it will resume from where it was suspended rather than started from scratch.

Schedule

The MLB season will be 60 games, starting July 23-24. The end of the season remains September 27, and the postseason format will not change (for now).

The Tribe’s schedule will consist of 40 games against AL Central teams (10 each), 20 against NL Central teams (6 of which will be against the rival Cincinnati Reds). The official schedule should be released in the next couple of days.

The games are scheduled to take place in the normal home stadiums without fans, though that is subject to change based on local conditions. For example, a team whose home city/state has issued restrictions may have to play on the road or at a neutral site.

Rosters/Transactions

60-man roster. Teams have to submit a roster of 60 eligible players by Sunday, June 28. This will include the current 40-man roster plus 20 minor-leaguers. This is cover for injuries or players who contract the virus. Any player not on the MLB roster will train at a nearby minor-league facility (likely Lake County), as there will be no minor-league season. Teams can only trade players that are on their 60-man roster, so that limits the types of deals that can be made during the season.

Major-league roster will be 30 players for the first two weeks, 28 for the next two weeks, then the normal 26 for the remainder of the season. This is to compensate for a short Spring Summer Training. There will no limit to the number of pitchers allowed on the MLB roster.

The trade deadline is now August 31, and the postseason roster deadline is now September 15.

Injured List is 10 days for all players (was 15 days for pitchers). The 60-day Injured List is now 45 days. There will also be a special COVID List for players that either test positive or have a confirmed exposure; teams will not be able to activate a player who tests positive until he tests negative twice.

Sources:

Rosenthal: Blockbuster trades are less likely; Schedule complaints; scramble for jobs (The Athletic – subscription)

FAQ: Roster and transaction rules for 2020 (MLB.com)

FAQ: All you need to know about the 2020 season (MLB.com)

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