Major League Baseball has stopped regular COVID-19 testing of all but symptomatic players, while still being able to move games if the health situation in an area is worsening.
The MLB and players’ association concluded their 2022 coronavirus protocols Tuesday. This comes five days after they reached a collective bargaining deal. There are still some issues on the field, including whether to keep the pandemic rule that calls for “ghost runners” at second base in extra innings.
The 18-page protocols states that MLB has the authority to move club(s), to neutral sites, spring training locations or other clubs’ ballparks during the championship season. It can also reschedule or cancel games in the 2022 championship schedule if necessary for safety or health reasons.
“With the consent and permission of the MLBPA (which shall never be unreasonably withheld), MLB also holds the right to conduct part or all of 2022’s postseason at neutral sites (including other teams’ home ballparks) or to delay the beginning of the postseason to reschedule championship game games after the conclusion of the championship season.
According to the protocols, “MLB will postpone games only when necessary to ensure the safety and health of club personnel, players, and umpires.” If the club has enough players to replace those who have been injured by COVID-19, games will not be delayed for competitive reasons.
Both sides reached an agreement that, “in regard to outdoor games delayed due to COVID-19 within the first 30 days, the championship season begins, MLB and clubs will, wherever possible, avoid rescheduling such matches as a split-doubleheader before April 30.”
The protocols are more relaxed than in the previous two seasons.
When a team reached 85% vaccination among its players, coaches, and other staff, restrictions such as the wearing of facemasks in dugouts were lifted.
Sixteen of the 30 teams failed to reach 85% last season: Arizona, Boston and the Chicago Cubs; Kansas City, Kansas City, New York Mets, Seattle, and Arizona.
It is not necessary to trace wristbands used last year.
Players will still be tested at intake in 2022, but they will be tested only if they show signs or report symptoms.
Any player placed on the COVID-19 injures list will not be counted against an active team roster. A player who tests positive during assignment shall have his designation nullified and he will be added to the COVID-19 IL.
Protocols state that uniformed personnel are not allowed to wear facial coverings on the field, in bullpens or in the dugouts. This applies to “team charters”, trains, buses, etc., though the federal Transportation Security Administration has put in place a mask mandate for flights up through April 18.
Indoor hitting tunnels, clubshouses, weight rooms, and other indoor areas require that players and uniformed personnel wear approved face covers if they are required by any applicable laws or regulations.
A mask that is worn “cannot contain any undue comercialization.”
If a team is subject to significant COVID-19 IL or restricted list placements because of inability to enter Canada due to vaccination status, then the commissioner can allow the team to “add substitute players temporarily to its major league active roster.” Players who are sent back to the minors cannot be considered an “optional or outright assignment.”
As a taxi squad, each team can have five members. One catcher is allowed.
At times determined by the teams, players’ children can be on the field.
Members of the media who have been vaccinated are permitted to enter clubhouses. This is the first time that reporters have had access to locker rooms since spring training 2020.