The 2020 Major League Baseball season will be one of the most unique in the history of the sport, with a revised schedule, massive rule changes and specific roster and transaction requirements.
If you’re a hardcore baseball junkie, click here to read our breakdown of the entire 101-page MLB operations manual. If you’d just like the nuts and bolts version, the top 47 major changes are below.
- Designated hitters will be used in both leagues so National League pitchers can focus on their arms with less time than usual to prepare.
- Extra inning games will begin with a runner on second base in an attempt to avoid games going deep into extra innings. This rule will not extend to the playoffs.
- Position players can pitch without extra restrictions. That might not sound any different from last year, but before 2020 was cut short by the coronavirus (COVID-19), a rule was set to go into place limiting when position players could take the mound.
- Pitchers can have a wet rag in their pocket to use instead of licking their fingers.
- Games cut short by weather before five innings can be resumed at a later date, instead of starting the entire game over.
- MLB’s new three-batter rule for pitchers will be enforced.
- Players have to try to stay six feet away from everyone except when that’s not possible in the flow of the game.
- In spring training only, pitchers taken out of games can re-enter at any time.
- In spring training only, defensive managers can end an inning before recording three outs if a pitcher has thrown at least 25 pitches.
- No lineup cards will be exchanged before games. MLB will instead use a mobile app.
- Non-players in the dugouts have to wear masks during the games.
- Players have to get their own equipment, including rosin bags for pitchers going out to the mounds, pine tar and donuts for batters on the on-deck circle and players fetching their own gloves after their offensive inning ends and they have to take the field.
- Spitting is not allowed, including tobacco and sunflower seeds. Gum is tolerated.
- After an out players are strongly discouraged not to throw the ball around the horn.
- No bat boys or bat girls. Either teams will assign staffers to pick up those duties, or those services won’t be available to players.
- High-fives, fist bumps and hugs are not allowed. Six feet of distance must be maintained when possible.
- Everyone is to do their best not to touch their face with their hands, including the elimination of signs and signals that require doing so.
Rosters and transactions
- Teams will start with a Club Player Pool made up of 60 players from which to construct their active roster.
- No team can exceed the 60 player limit at any time in the Club Player Pool.
- By noon of Opening Day, teams must submit an active roster of between 25-30 players.
- On the 15th day of the season, the roster will be reduced to 25-28 players.
- On the 29th day of the season, the roster will be reduced to 25-26 players.
- Transactions will be unfrozen on the fifth day of spring training.
- A trade deadline will be enforced Aug. 31, instead of the usual July 31.
- Players have to be on the roster by Sept. 15 to be eligible for the playoffs.
- 10 days must pass before a player who was optioned or outrighted can be recalled, unless the player was assigned before Opening Day.
- Last season’s (2019) winning percentage will determine the waiver order for the first 20 days of the 2020 season.
- A taxi squad of up to three players not on the active roster can travel on road trips.
- The injured list for both pitchers and position players is 10 days.
- The 60-day IL has been changed to a 45-day IL.
- A new COVID-19 IL has been created for players who test positive, have been exposed to an infected person or show possible symptoms of COVID-19. The list doesn’t have a minimum or maximum length.
- Any player who is considered high risk for contracting COVID-19 is allowed to sit out the 2020 season without penalty. If they decide to participate, high-risk individuals must get extra safety accommodations from their team.
- Players will report to spring training by July 1.
- Opening Day will be June 23 or June 24.
- The teams will play 60 games in 66 days, ending on Sept. 27.
- Each team will play 40 games against division opponents -- presumably 10 games each against the other four teams in the division.
- Each team will play 20 games against the corresponding geographical division from the opposite league, so the AL East vs. the NL East, the AL Central vs. the NL Central and the AL West vs. the NL West. It’s unclear how those games will be divided up just yet.
Other interesting changes
- Players can get to the stadium five hours before games at the earliest, and have to leave 90 minutes after games at the latest. They can only be at the facilities for up to four hours on off days.
- Only players likely to enter games should be in the dugout. For example, inactive players or the following day’s starting pitcher should not be in the dugout for games.
- A clean towel has to be used as a barrier if someone leans against a railing or ledge in the dugouts.
- No buffet-style or communal meals can be provided at the facilities.
- Only medical personnel can help injured players off the field, not teammates or coaches.
- Secondary scoreboards, the out-of-town scoreboard and advertising boards can only be used during games if they’re operated by the same people who run the main scoreboards. In other words, teams can’t have extra staff at the games just to keep those other boards running.
- Mascots can’t go on the field or in any restricted areas on gamedays.
- TV broadcasters can’t travel to their team’s away games, so they have to call the game remotely while using the home team’s camera feed, which is required to give equal video time to both teams.
- Radio announcers can travel to away games.
- There are strict requirements for anyone to enter team facilities, including players and coaches. Teams will use a tiered system to grant access to people who need it, as well as a specific four-part monitoring and testing plan outlined by MLB.