After Major League spring training was interrupted in March, most people didn't think it would be July 23rd before opening day arrived. The novel coronavirus has stood the world of sports (and the world in general) upside down in the months since it arrived on the shores of the United States.
Tonight some sort of normalcy will return with opening day games between the defending World Series Champion Washington Nationals and the New York Yankees, and a second game with the San Francisco Giants visiting the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Yankees and the Dodgers seem to be the favorites among most media members for the 2020 title. The season, if it can be pulled off, will be a 60 game sprint rather than a 162 game marathon.
The University of Alabama has five players on the active opening day rosters. Veteran left handed pitcher Wade LeBlanc joins his eighth team, and will be in the starting rotation for the Baltimore Orioles. LeBlanc will pitch game three this weekend versus the Boston Red Sox. Catcher Alex Avila is also with a new team, the Minnesota Twins, as he begins his 11th season in the show. Avila will be the back up for Minnesota. Right handed pitcher Spencer Turnbull is with the Detroit Tigers and will be in their starting rotation. Turnbull turned a lot of heads in his rookie season in 2019 and is poised to have a breakout year. The Philadelphia Phillies return right handed pitcher Tommy Hunter for his third year in the City of Brotherly Love, and his joined by left hander pitcher Adam Morgan who has been with the Phillies since making his MLB debut in 2015.
Two other former ‘Bama pitchers, David Robertson and Jimmy Nelson, will spend the 2020 season on the disabled list. Robertson is with Philadelphia for the second year after many years with the Yankees and a short stay with the Chicago White Sox. Nelson, once one of the most promising young pitchers in the game with Milwaukee before a gruesome shoulder injury signed with the Dodgers in the off season but is now on the shelf for the season after back surgery. Left handed pitcher Taylor Guilbeau made his Major League debut last season with the Seattle Mariners, becoming the 67th Alabama Alum to appear in a major league game. Guilbeau is on the three man traveling taxi squad for Seattle. The taxi squad is in place since there is no minor league baseball to call players up from in case of injury and positive COVID tests to active players. Right handed pitcher Matt Foster was invited to the Chicago White Sox “summer camp” as one of the 60 allowed players, but did not make the opening 30 day roster or the taxi squad for the team.
The 30 man roster and the taxi squad are just a few of the tweaks to the game for this season. The designated hitter will be universal for at least this year. If a game reaches extra innings each team will begin with a runner on second base. No fans will be allowed in the stands of any of the games. MLB is also trying to decide at this late time weather to expand the playoffs from 10 to 16 teams. Like most hard core baseball fans I don't like most of these rules, but are excited just to have any form of baseball available. It remains to be seen if the season will be able to be completed, but it is great to see them try!