MiLB season nixed due to COVID-19 pandemic

By The Sports Pulse Staff

Photo by Michael Smith/The Sports Pulse

BOWIE – Minor League Baseball (MiLB) officials recently announced that their 2020 season has been nixed by Major League Baseball (MLB) due to the pandemic caused by COVID-19.

Originally scheduled to begin on April 9, the 2020 season had been delayed indefinitely including local teams such as the Harrisburg Senators and the Bowie Baysox (farm teams of the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles).

All 160 affiliated Minor League Baseball clubs awaited word from Major League Baseball relative to the status of the season before the decision was made.

Major League Baseball announced on June 23, the finalization of their plan to begin their season on July 23 and 24 in empty stadiums with expanded roster sizes, therefore resulting in the cancellation of all affiliated Minor League seasons.

“We are aware that our community shares our disappointment in learning that there will be no Bowie Baysox Baseball games this season,” said Brian Shallcross, Baysox General Manager. “We would like to thank our fans, corporate partners, Season Ticket Holders and employees for their patience and support during this difficult and uncertain time. We now turn our focus to the 2021 season and the hopes of playing a full season next year.”

Nationals announce Player Pool, Zimmerman will not join team for 2020 season

Zimmerman and Ross will not join team in 2020 season

By Arthur Cribbs/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Courtesy photo

WASHINGTON – Last October, in what now feels like a millennia ago, the Washington Nationals brought the first World Series trophy back to the nation’s capital since 1924 after defeating the Houston Astros. 

Two hundred forty-five days since that historic Game 7 victory, the Nationals are finally back in town in the Navy Yards neighborhood, although under seemingly unprecedented circumstances. 

As we enter July, in what is typically the midway point of the Major League Baseball (MLB) season, players, coaches and staff throughout the league are reporting to their respective ballclubs. 

In an agreement made last week between MLB and the league’s players association, teams will report to an abbreviated “spring” training at their home facilities by July 1, start workouts on July 3 and begin the 60-game regular season on July 23 and 24. 

Before this hiatus from baseball, major league teams had begun spring training in Florida and Arizona before play came to an abrupt halt in the middle of March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the abbreviated training period in July, teams are limited to a 60-player pool competing for 30 spots on the Opening Day roster.

The Nationals unveiled their 60-man pool on Sunday, which featured 36 pitchers, six catchers, 11 infielders and seven outfielders.

While the Nationals will open the regular season with up to 30 players, each team must cut the active roster down to 28 players two weeks into the season. After another two weeks, rosters will be cut again to 26 players for the remainder of the season.

Players who are removed from the active roster may stay in game shape at the Alternate Training Site, which will likely be the closest minor league facility; Fredericksburg (High-A) will likely serve as the Nationals’ alternate site.

Among roster changes and a shortened season, MLB is also adding a universal designated hitter, a player automatically at second base during extra innings during the regular season and an August 31 trade deadline before the regular season concludes on September 27. 

Of the 60 games, 40 will be divisional, and 20 will be interleague. Additionally, to limit any semblance of contact, spitting on the field will be prohibited.

Unlike the NBA, where players will be secluded in a central location, MLB teams are expected to travel. In the event that a player contracts the novel coronavirus, he will be placed on the COVID-19 injured list, which does not have a specific time length. The player must test negative twice and show no fever for 72 hours before returning to the ballclub.

Players can opt-out of the season, but only those who are medically certified as “high risk” can receive full prorated salaries.

Since the announcement of the player pool, at least two notable Nationals players have chosen to forgo commitments to the upcoming season.

Ryan Zimmerman announced on Monday that he would opt out of playing the 2020 season, citing family circumstances as the deciding factors. Zimmerman, 35, will forgo his $6.25 million salary (which would have been about $2.3 million in prorated pay for 60 games) but says he has no plans on retiring from the sport.

Pitcher Joe Ross, who was in line to be the Nationals fifth starter, is also opting out of the 2020 season.

Despite the loss of Zimmerman and Ross for the season, many of the spots on Nationals Opening Day roster are all but certain, barring injury or unforeseen circumstances.

Starting Pitchers

  • Max Scherzer
  • Stephen Strasburg
  • Patrick Corbin
  • Anibal Sanchez

Relief Pitchers

  • Sean Doolittle
  • Will Harris
  • Daniel Hudson
  • Tanner Rainey

Catchers

  • Kurt Suzuki
  • Yan Gomes

Infielders

  • Eric Thames
  • Howie Kendrick
  • Trea Turner
  • Starlin Castro
  • Asdrúbal Cabrera 

Outfielders

  • Juan Soto
  • Victor Robles
  • Adam Eaton
  • Michael A. Taylor

Bulk in starting and relief pitching will likely make up more than half of Manager Davey Martinez’s roster. With the addition of the designated hitter to the National League in 2020, the Nationals will also likely add an additional bat or a third catcher to the mix.

A notable invitee for the Nationals is pitching prospect and last year’s first-round pick Jackson Rutledge. He is unlikely to make the final roster but posted a 3.13 ERA in 37.1 minor league innings in his first season as a professional. 

Top prospect and former first-round pick Carter Kieboom will also be a player to watch as he looks to fill the void at third base with the team’s loss of Anthony Rendon to the Los Angeles Angels. He spent parts of 2019 on the Major League club and is expected to begin the season on the active roster.

Although much of the scheduling details for the season have yet to be announced, the Nationals are slated to open the season with an interleague matchup against the New York Yankees.

Major League Baseball season is a Go

By Harry Lichtman/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Photo by Michael Smith/The Sports Pulse

WASHINGTON – On June 23, Major League Baseball (MLB) players agreed to report to training camp on July 1, resulting in the MLB season taking place in 2020.

For weeks, it seemed like a baseball season was not going to happen based on owners and players arguing over the number of games played and the amount of pay received in return.

On Monday, June 22, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) rejected MLB’s offer of a 60-game season, which resulted in league commissioner Rob Manfred taking matters into his own hands and implementing a season himself.

However, MLB officially announced a 60-game regular season that will begin on either July 23 or July 24, with a specialized “spring” training session starting on July 1st.

The shortened season will also include new rules for 2020: 

  • Active rosters will have 30 players for the first two weeks, 28 for the next two weeks, and 26 in week five.
  • A separate injury list for the coronavirus.
  • Teams will play 10 games vs. divisional opponents; four vs. opposite league divisional opponents.
  • Universal designated hitter (DH) for both NL and AL.
  • The trade deadline will be August 31.
  • The runner starts at second base in extra innings

Due to COVID-19 still sweeping the nation, players must follow a lot of safety measures, as they are not allowed to make deliberate contact with any other player aside from making tags. That means don’t expect anything like high-fives or fights between players.

In terms of COVID-19 testing, it will be implemented in three phases: prescreening, intake, and regular monitoring, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich.

For prescreening, players and staffers will be tested three or four days before arriving at camp. For intake, they will then undergo a temperature check, a saliva or nose-swab test, and a blood test for antibodies two days before reporting to camp.

Finally, for regular monitoring, players will have their temperature and symptoms checked twice per day.

As for the minors, the MiLB season has been on hold since April, as they are awaiting word from the MLB if the season will be played at all.

But for now, an apparent free agent league is in place, so that MLB players could quickly sign a fill-in player if necessary.

According to The Athletic’s Jayson Stark, MLB has talked with Nashville about having two teams of unsigned players there. Nashville is the home of the Triple-A Nashville Sounds.

The players would serve as an emergency pool and would make $400 per week, as MLB teams would have to pay a fee to Nashville to sign one of those free agents.

According to Ken Rosenthal, Nashville might not be the only location for this free agent league, as Rosenthal stated that “MLB expects other minor league teams to do something similar to Nashville and allow major league teams to sign players for a fee, operating the same way independent leagues do.”

MLB is not the only North American pro sports league planning to return, the NBA and NHL are expected to begin their playoffs in late July/early August, MLS announced a tournament which will kick off in Orlando on July 8, the WNBA plans to tip off their season in late July, and the NFL is expected to start on time in the fall.

Nationals and Orioles draft for the future, CRCBL represented well

By Harry Lichtman/The Sports Pulse Contributing Writer

Photo by Michael Smith/The Sports Pulse

ROCKVILLE – While the 2020 MLB season has yet to be played due to the owners and players failing to find a solution on schedule length and amount of pay received, the annual MLB Draft took place on June 10 and 11.

The MLB Draft is usually 40 rounds, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s draft was shortened to five rounds, with 160 total players drafted.

While the Detroit Tigers had the first overall pick and selected Arizona State infielder Spencer Torkelson, we will mainly focus on the Washington Nationals, the Baltimore Orioles, and Cal Ripken League alums taken in the draft.

The Nationals are coming off an improbable World Series championship run after starting the season with a 19-31 record. They entered the draft with the 22nd overall pick in the first round.

With that pick, Washington selected Cade Cavalli, a right-handed pitcher from the University of Oklahoma. This became the fifth consecutive season where the Nats selected a pitcher in the first round, after Dane Dunning (2019), Mason Denaburg (2018), Seth Romero (2017), and Dane Dunning (2016).

According to MASN Nationals insider Mark Zuckerman, Cavalli is a big right-hander at 6-foot-4 and 226 pounds, can reach the upper 90s, and has some injury history.

In the second round, Washington chose another right-handed pitcher, Cole Henry, from LSU. As a draft-eligible sophomore, Henry expects to sign with the Nationals rather than return to Baton Rouge.

The 71st overall pick was a compensation pick for losing Anthony Rendon to the Los Angeles Angels, as Washington drafted shortstop Sammy Infante, a Florida high school player who committed to Miami (FL).

The Nationals’ next few picks were UCLA right-hander Holden Powell in the third round, Oklahoma catcher Brady Lindsly in the fourth round, and San Jacinto Junior College left-hander Mitchell Parker in the fifth and final round.

The Orioles have been very underwhelming unit the past few seasons, especially after losing over 100 games in 2018 and 2019.

That being said, it also means Baltimore has made very early first-round selections recently, as the team took Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman with the first overall pick in the 2019 draft.

This year, the Orioles had the second pick and drafted Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad.

As a true freshman for the Razorbacks, Kjerstad batted .332 with 30 extra-base hits, 14 home runs, and 58 RBIs, and helped lead his school to the 2018 College World Series final.

At the end of Day One, Baltimore had the 30th pick and took Jordan Westburg, a shortstop from Mississippi State.

On Day Two, the O’s selected Tulane outfielder Hudson Haskin, Ole Miss shortstop Anthony Servideo, Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS (FL) third baseman Coby Mayo, and Dowling Catholic HS (IA) right-hander Carter Baumler.

Finally, six Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League (CRCBL) players from the last few years were selected for the 2020 MLB Draft.

Orioles draft picks Westburg and Servideo both have Cal Ripken League experience, as Westburg played for the Gaithersburg Giants in 2017, while Servideo spent his time with the Baltimore Redbirds in 2018.

Two other Giants alums taken in the draft were LSU outfielder Daniel Cabrera and Louisiana shortstop Hayden Cantrelle. Cabrera was selected by the Detroit Tigers in Round B, while the Milwaukee Brewers took Cantrelle in the fifth round.

Two Bethesda Big Train alums were also drafted: East Carolina outfielder and 2018 CRL MVP Alec Burleson Virginia Tech catcher Carson Taylor. SMC California standout Gio Diaz was recently signed to the Nationals.

Burleson was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals with their compensation pick (No. 70 overall), and Taylor was taken by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fourth round.

Our favorite photos from the Spring Sports Season


Baseball: Photos by Phillip Peters/The Sports Pulse

The Coronavirus pandemic has swept the nation and has taken away sports altogether for us to enjoy.

However, we wanted to showcase the work of our award-winning photographers. Each week we will have them select their Top 10 favorite photos from each sport throughout the spring sports season.

We will run these galleries until every sport that we cover is represented to get you closer to the action until life returns to normal.