Add one more thing to the list of firsts in this unusual 2020 baseball season.
MLB is preparing to implement a new rule that will have doubleheaders last seven innings — similar to the way they’re conducted in the minor leagues, an MLB official with direct knowledge of the decision confirmed to USA TODAY Sports.
The person chose not to be identified because an official announcement has not yet been made.
With the recent surge in positive COVID-19 tests, the postponement of several MLB games and the 66-day window to complete the regular season, several teams will need to schedule doubleheaders to make up lost games.
“It does help out with possible pitching issues and with health,” Baltimore Orioles manager Brandon Hyde recently told USA TODAY Sports. “But I don’t know…This year, we’re just going to make adjustments, be flexible, do what the league tells us to do. I’m good either way.”
The seven-inning doubleheaders will help reduce the physical toll of playing so many games in a compressed time frame.
“I’m all for that,” Toronto Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo recently told USA TODAY Sports.
However, the idea of shortening games might not sit well with some players — especially those who typically play larger roles in the later innings.
“I like nine and nine, personally. Just think I don’t want to be marginalized out of the game,” New York Yankees reliever Adam Ottavino said. “Once we go seven and seven, it’s a slippery slope.”
To combat the coronavirus epidemic and salvage a 60-game season, MLB expanded rosters to 30 players to begin the season and is starting all extra-inning games with a runner on second base. It also implemented a universal designated hitter.
The seven-inning doubleheader rule is expected to go into effect on August 1.
Contributing: Bob Nightengale, Gabe Lacques