It’s been a season full of rule adjustments in Major League Baseball as the league attempts to navigate COVID-19. Another big change is set to be implemented later this week.
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported Tuesday MLB rosters will drop from 30 to 28 active players on Thursday. Taxi squads — a group of players teams are permitted to carry on road trips in case of injuries or positive COVID-19 cases — will increase from three to five players. One still must be a catcher.
MLB’s original plan for this 60-game season called for teams to carry 30 players on their active rosters for the first two weeks. That number was to drop to 28 for Weeks 3 and 4 and then 26 for Weeks 5 and 6 — 26 being the number of active roster spots in a normal season.
With the upcoming rule adjustment, teams will only be required to cut two spots off their active rosters, allowing them to carry 28 players through the postseason — or however long this season goes.
Cubs president Theo Epstein said the club is supportive of any rules that help keep players safe, both in terms of COVID-19 and from normal baseball injuries. The Marlins and Cardinals have encountered COVID-19 outbreaks among their teams and pitchers have been going down league-wide at alarming rates after baseball’s long layoff and quick Summer Camp ramp up.
“As long as a rule adjustment is conceived to keep players safe and it can be applied fairly across the board, we’ll be supportive of it,” Epstein said Tuesday.
How the Cubs react to the change is to be determined. They could opt to send two relievers with options remaining, such as Rex Brothers, Colin Rea and Justin Steele, to their South Bend training site. Brothers has made two appearances this season, most recently July 29, when he walked two and allowed three runs against the Reds.
Rea (July 30) and Steele (Aug. 2) haven't made appearances since being recalled from South Bend. Another route could be sending one reliever and third-string catcher Josh Phegley to South Bend. Phegley has no options remaining and would have to be designated for assignment and clear waivers for the Cubs to retain him.
Other 2020 rule changes include seven-inning doubleheaders, starting extra innings with a runner on second base and regionalized schedules.