Major League Baseball announced spring training workout dates for all ballclubs today, and the Royals will have their first workout for pitchers and catchers in Surprise, Arizona on February 17. The first full-squad workout will be February 22.
Spring training will be a bit different than in years past with MLB and the MLB Players Association coming to agreement on safety protocols for this season, as reported by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Spring training will be limited to 75 players and 75 staff members, with spring training for Double-A and A-ball minor leaguers to be held in late March and April. Teams will have until Friday, February 12 to submit their 75-man spring training roster. The Royals recently announced they had invited 29 players to spring training as non-roster invitees, in addition to the players on their 40-man roster.
Spring training will be divided into three phases - Phase 1 will feature individual and small group workouts; Phase 2 will include larger or full-team workouts, and Phase 3 will include a limited number of games against other clubs. Games from February 27 through March 13 will feature amended rules that may allow the inning to end without three outs being recorded, provided the pitcher has thrown at least 20 pitches, loosened substitution rules, including re-entry for pitchers, and the option to shorten games. This is done so that teams can play games with a limited number of pitchers, instead of using minor leaguers to fill out games as has been typically done in the past.
MLB also announced that some rule changes to accommodate the pandemic last year will be carried over to this regular season, including seven-inning doubleheaders and the extra-inning rule that had each inning beginning with a runner at second base. There will be no universal DH as there was last year, so games in National League parks will feature the pitcher hitting. Rosters will be limited to 26 players this year, although there will not be a restriction on the number of pitchers a team can carry. Up to 28 players can be assigned to Triple-A or an Alternate Training Site. Teams can carry five players on a taxi squad to travel with the team.
MLB is also planning on issuing fines for not appropriately wearing face coverings in the dugout and bullpen. Players are also restricted from attending indoor gatherings of more than 10 people, indoor restaurants and bars, and other venues with gatherings, although with some exceptions. Vaccinations for players will be voluntary. Other safety protocols announced by MLB will include players wearing contact-tracing devices and having access to in-game video on iPads (with catcher’s signs blocked) rather than communal video terminals.
The Royals have not yet announced how many, if any, fans will be allowed to attend spring training games in Surprise. The Cubs have announced that their games in Arizona will include fans at 25 percent of capacity. The Rockies and Diamondbacks announced spring training tickets would go on sale this week, but then postponed sales. The Royals have also yet to announce how many fans will be able to attend regular season games, although they have expressed hope that fans will be in attendance in some capacity.