Early April figured to be a special time in Worcester with the new Triple-A affiliate for the Red Sox starting their inaugural season in the first week of the month. That plan has been scrapped, as the entire Triple-A season is being pushed back at least a month with the Alternate Site setup from last season returning for at least the month of April. This is all comes from a report from Jeff Passan over at ESPN.
If you’ll recall, minor-league teams released their schedules last month and Triple-A clubs were the only ones set to start in April, with the other three full-season levels set to begin their seasons in May. Now, the plan is for Triple-A to join them around that same start date. The expectation is that all of those seasons will now run through most of September and not end at the beginning of the month as is typical for minor-league schedules.
This is a huge bummer, of course, but not a major surprise. Vaccinations are starting to roll out much more quickly around the country, but there still is not likely to be enough vaccinations to make the minor-league travel work for that first month of the season. As Passan points out, minor-league teams fly commercial, which obviously opens up the possibility of higher infection rates. And in turn, Triple-A players could go from a commercial flight one day to the big-league clubhouse the next afternoon, and the last thing MLB wants is that leading to an outbreak in the majors.
As for the Alternate Site, presumably that will be held at Worcester’s new Polar Park just as last season’s was held in Pawtucket. Don’t expect it to look exactly like last year’s, though, with teams bringing some of their younger prospects into the mix. The Red Sox, for example, gave some time to Triston Casas and Nick Yorke. This year, non-Triple-A minor leaguers will be starting their spring training after the big leaguers leave in late March, and those who are not expected to start the year at Triple-A (Yorke and Casas included) will stay in Fort Myers to workout there. Instead, I’d expect the Alternate Site to mainly just feature players who would have been at Triple-A and can be called upon for a big league call up if the need arises early in the year.
I’ve really missed following and covering the minors, so I’m right with everyone else in hoping this is indeed just a month-long delay and Worcester’s season, along with Portland, Greenville and Salem, will be able to start up in early May. It’s been far too long.