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Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed optimism about a return date Wednesday – one day before Opening Day was set to begin but was delayed because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Manfred spoke to ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt about when fans can expect to see some baseball again.
“The one thing I know for sure is baseball will be back,” he said. “Whenever it's safe to play, we'll be back. Our fans will be back. Our players will be back. And we will be part of the recovery, the healing in this country, from this particular pandemic."
“Look, my optimistic outlook is that at some point in May, we'll be gearing back up. We'll have to make a determination, depending what the precise date is, as to how much of a preparation period we need.”
Manfred didn’t give a specific date. In all likelihood, it means that baseball would resume spring training before starting to play regular-season games. He lamented that there probably won’t be a 162-game season.
“I think the goal would be to get as many regular-season games as possible and think creatively about how we can accomplish that goal,” he said. “We're probably not gonna be able to do [an entire 162-game season].”
He suggested the league could break away from musty traditions and “experiment” to make the game as entertaining as possible.
While Manfred didn’t get into specifics, one Toronto Blue Jays official came up with an idea to shorten games to seven innings and play more doubleheaders.
Blue Jays general manager Scott Atkins came up with the idea. If teams played an average of nine games a week, a 162-game season could get done in 18 weeks – eight fewer than usual. MLB could then start as late as July to pick things up again and run the regular-season through October.
“You’re not playing the game that is written in the rule books,” Atkins said. “It’s not the regulation game, it’s a different game. Bullpens and teams are built in a way to play nine innings. I’m sure there are people that would challenge that and I’m not so sure it’s something we should do.”
Atkins said baseball could take a collaborative approach to find a solution to the new schedule once baseball does return.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.