spring training

MLB Spring Training 2021 Guide: Here We Go!

A look at key dates and new COVID-19 protocols as MLB clubs begin Spring Training

2020 World Series Game 6: Los Angeles Dodgers v. Tampa Bay Rays
Cooper Neill

The wait is over and Spring Training is finally here! 

The 2021 Dodgers, coming off a World Series championship, will return with almost every piece of their offense that led the majors in runs scored last season. No team has repeated as champions since the 1999-2000 season, but the Dodgers will have a stellar chance of winning back-to-back titles. The biggest offseason acquisition for Los Angeles was Trevor Bauer, the top pitcher available on the free-agent market. Recent World Series champs Boston and Washington both had slow starts in their title defenses, but it is less likely that the Dodgers will have that same issue.

Here’s our MLB guide to 2021 Spring Training as pitchers and catchers have started reporting. 

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When does Spring Training start?

Each club sets its own reporting dates, but most teams will open camp February 17th with pitchers and catchers reporting. Players will then go through COVID-19 testing before officially reporting. Position players will report after pitchers and catchers begin workouts. Then, full squad practices will be underway. 

All MLB players must report to Spring Training by February 26th. The collective bargaining agreement requires players to report at least 33 days prior to Opening Day. 

MLB Spring Training exhibition games begin Sunday, Feb. 28, with 28 out of the 30 clubs in action. Developed with COVID safety precautions in mind, Cactus League teams will play 28 games in 30 days in Arizona, with two off-days. Meanwhile, Grapefruit League teams will play under a regionalized schedule in Florida to mitigate travel.

You can find the full 2021 Spring Training schedule here

Will fans be allowed to attend Spring Training?

Yes. Teams in both Arizona and Florida are selling a select number of tickets for Spring Training games. Various COVID-19 protocols will be in place, including limited capacity, pod-style seating systems, strict mask requirements, and social distancing. See each team’s official website for more details regarding specific policies, and to purchase tickets.

Will MLB players and staff be vaccinated?

Although many new restrictions are being enforced to ensure social distancing both on and off the field, many are wondering if players will be vaccinated. According to ESPN, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said during a phone call with general managers last week that vaccinations of players and staff is on the table for discussion, but doing so depends on vaccine availability in the U.S. 

When is 2021 Opening Day? 

The Dodgers will begin their title defense at Coors Field against the Colorado Rockies at 1 p.m. PT. All of the MLB’s 30 clubs will open their season on the same day, marking the fourth consecutive season that clubs are scheduled to play on traditional Opening Day. Other key divisional matchups include Blue Jays-Yankees, Braves-Phillies, Cardinals-Reds, Mets-Nationals, and Astros-A’s. 

2021 MLB regular season, All-Star Game and postseason

There will once again be 162 games in the regular season, which will run from April 1 through October 3. Clubs will not be limited to playing opponents from the same region. Plans for fans in the stadiums have not been finalized, but there is optimism that they will be able to enjoy games in person this year.

The 2021 All-Star Game is scheduled for July 13th at Atlanta’s Truist Park. For the first time ever, the All-Star Game will also include the MLB Draft. The Dodgers were originally scheduled to host this year’s event but will instead do so in 2022. The 2020 playoffs featured an expanded format from 10 to 16 teams, but this year’s schedule and format have not been finalized yet. 

Rule changes for the 2021 MLB regular season

According to MLB.com, the universal DH is not currently in line to return after debuting in 2020, although it’s still possible that MLB and the Players Association could reach a deal in that regard prior to Opening Day. If they don’t, then the DH will only be used in AL ballparks, while pitchers will hit in NL parks.

Two other rules that were implemented in 2020 in an effort to minimize the time spent at the ballpark will return in 2021. Doubleheaders will feature seven-inning games, and when any game goes to extra innings, a runner will be placed on second base to begin each half-inning.

Rosters will once again feature 26 players, after being expanded in 2020. Rosters will increase to 28 players in September. There will not be a limit to how many pitchers can be on a team's roster.

Clubs may bring a "Taxi Squad" of up to five players on all road trips, in order to have reinforcements available in the event of injuries or COVID-related issues.

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