It sure seems like players are beginning to brace themselves for the ongoing MLB lockout to delay spring training — and potentially the beginning of the regular season.
Appearing on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight podcast with Buster Olney, Red Sox left-hander Rich Hill said he’s “discouraged” by the lack of progress in negotiations between the league and the MLB Players Association in recent weeks. Though the sides met on two consecutive days earlier this week, no deal is close. Hill believes that will lead to spring training — which is supposed to start in mid-February — to be delayed and/or truncated.
“I’m not really looking forward to pushing spring training back,” Hill told Olney. “I think that’s ultimately what’s going to happen unless something drastic happens in the next couple of weeks here where we finally come to a decision and both sides have some Kumbaya and we can move forward. I think pushing spring training back, you’re putting guys at risk for injury during the season and the other side of it, too, is the development of guys who are coming up through the minor leagues.”
While the Red Sox have not yet released a date when pitchers and catchers are report to camp in Fort Myers, it’s just about the time of year when players begin to start arriving at the Fenway South complex. In 2020, pitchers and catchers reported on Feb. 11; last year, because of COVID-19 concerns, the report date was a week later.
If camp is shortened, it will mark the second time in three years that players have to rush to build up for Opening Day. In 2020, after the pandemic delayed the beginning of the season until late July, teams held a three-week “summer camp” at their home ballparks in order to get ready for the season. Hill, who believes both pitchers and hitters would suffer with a limited buildup, hopes to avoid watching history repeat itself.
“It always works out with a regular spring training. Now with a shortened spring training, with a three-week schedule, I think we’re going to run into some problems,” he said. “Unless there’s something done possibly with what they did in 2020 with adding another player onto the roster — I think it’s something that should be looked at, especially for the health of the players.”
As of now, there seems to be a legitimate chance Red Sox players don’t gather in Fort Myers until sometime in March and that Opening Day (scheduled for March 31 at Fenway Park) could be in jeopardy as well. Significant labor progress is the only thing that could move the needle.
“Unfortunately, the health of baseball overall is going to suffer if we can’t really come to some decisions soon,” Hill said.
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