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Triple-A season now delayed “at least” a month

MLB exhibition: Chicago White Sox at Charlotte Knights Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Bad news for the minor leagues in general, Triple-A specifically, and the Charlotte Knights most locally: Per an ESPN report, the season will be delayed at least one month.

That means a return to the “alternate sites” concept that was employed during last summer’s 60-game MLB season. The arrangement was termed as “long-expected” in Jeff Passan’s story, so even though the minor league schedule was announced two weeks ago, there was considerable doubt that a season would get off the ground quickly.

Triple-A will now start its season at or around the same time as the lower minors — likely on Monday, May 4.

Several reasons were cited for the decision — including better oversight of minor leaguers’ health at nearby (to MLB parks) alternate sites, and the commercial flights taken in Triple-A posing a danger with the pandemic still in bloom.

MLB is hoping that this delay also helps get all minor league players vaccinated, giving some level of peace of mind to teams of a baseline of player safety.

Player vaccination at the major league level is also in question, but league officials are heartened by the fact that just 20 positive tests among players and personnel were recorded among more than 20,000 intake tests made at the start of spring training.

Major League Baseball still prefers to start its own season at the beginning of May, as proposed to the MLBPA. But the union rejected the plan due to a number of other contingencies. Baseball faces no such obstacles in outright delaying the MiLB season.

The roster size of the alternate site is expected to be similar to 2020, with essentially the Charlotte Knights roster being housed there. If the season delay lingers, however, expect the alternate site to lose some vets and AAAA players and gain more blue-chips who cannot afford to miss a summer of reps and instruction.