MLB Finalizes Rules, Health Protocols for 2021 Season

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Major League Baseball and its players’ association have come to agreement on new health protocols and rule changes for the upcoming season.

Last year’s seven-inning doubleheaders and runners on second base to start extra innings will return in 2021. However, the trial runs of extending the designated hitter to the National League and expanding playoffs will not carry over.

"We're comfortable with both rules," San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler wrote in a text to The Associated Press. "It seems like most were good with them in '20, and with a year of familiarity under our belts, we'll tackle them fine."

Arizona catcher Stephen Vogt said he felt the two rules being carried over help with mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

"During a season with the possible delays from COVID, I think the seven-inning and runner on second rules will help any teams make up for lost time," Arizona catcher Stephen Vogt wrote in a text to The Associated Press. "I would love to get back to traditional baseball ASAP, but I like them for the 2021 season." 

The 2020 season saw 45 games postponed due to COVID-19 related reasons. Only two of those games were not made up.

"I actually liked both the seven-inning doubleheaders and the runner on second," Oakland manager Bob Melvin told the AP. "I was skeptical at first, but they both were successful in my opinion."

The agreement between the two sides also includes more sophisticated contact tracing and more league rules on behavior to comply with COVID-19 protocols.

MLB players, on-field staff and non-playing personnel who require access at the ballparks must all wear electronic tracing wristbands from the start of spring training. They will be disciplined for violations.

“Every covered individual must wear a Kinexon contact tracing device at all times while in club facilities and during club directed travel and while engaged in team activities, including group workouts and practices,” the new 108-page health manual says, according to The Associated Press. “Repeated failure to wear the devices or repeated failure to return the devices to the Kinexon device docking station may be a basis for discipline,” the manual says.

Players will be encouraged but not required to get vaccines when available.

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