MLB to start on time after players reject delay

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FILE - In this July 24, 2020, file photo, empty seats are viewed in Busch Stadium as St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jack Flaherty throws in the first inning baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in St. Louis. Major League Baseball players rejected a proposal to delay the start of spring training and the season due to the coronavirus pandemic, vowing Monday, Feb. 1, 2021, to report under the original schedule. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

NEW YORK – Major League Baseball will proceed with an on-time start to spring training and the season after players rejected a plan Monday night to delay reporting by a more than a month.

"In light of the MLBPA’s rejection of our proposal, and their refusal to counter our revised offer this afternoon, we are moving forward and instructing our clubs to report for an on-time start to spring training and the championship season, subject to reaching an agreement on health and safety protocols," MLB said in a statement.

“We were able to complete a 2020 season through Herculean efforts and sacrifices made by our players, club staff and MLB staff to protect one another,” MLB said. "We will do so again, together, as we work towards playing another safe and entertaining season in 2021.”

MLB proposed to the players' association on Friday that the start of spring training be pushed back from Feb. 17 to March 22, that opening day be delayed from April 1 to April 28 and that each team's schedule be cut from 162 games to 154. MLB believed the virus situation would improve during the month delay.

Under the proposal, each team would have been allowed to be scheduled up to 12 split doubleheaders. Experimental rules for seven-inning doubleheaders and beginning extra innings with a runner on second base would have continued for a second season.

As part of the offer, MLB included the expansion of the playoffs from 10 teams to 14 and extending the designated hitter to the National League for the second straight season, a plan the union rejected Jan. 6.

Bruce Meyer, the union’s director of collective bargaining, called deputy commissioner Dan Halem on Monday to inform him the proposal had been rejected, two people familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because that detail was not announced.

Halem then asked Meyer to make a counteroffer, and Meyer sent an email asking MLB to guarantee salary and service time in the event of an interruption, one of the people said.