Baseball players are usually very proficient at making the most of their time.
Whether that is early batting practice or treatment in the training room, late-night study sessions or in-game adjustments, it’s in their DNA to maximize their time to create opportunities that wouldn't normally present themselves.
They are creatures of habit, and one of their most recognized practices is adapting to their environment, even the uncharted, in order to succeed.
Opening Day, which was originally scheduled for Thursday, March 26, was initially postponed for two weeks and has been pushed back even further following updated recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s highly probable that players will maximize their newfound flexibility. The question remains: How might the delay affect your favorite team in the American League West? Here are a few things to consider.
The delay stands to benefit the Angels, as Shohei Ohtani wasn't going to return to the mound as a two-way player until mid-May to keep his innings pitched down this year. Now, there's a chance he will be ready to pitch whenever the season starts. In that scenario, the Angels could start Ohtani once a week and then have him serve as designated hitter three to four times a week. His presence could greatly impact the landscape of the division. Right-hander Griffin Canning, who received an injection of biological substances to mitigate joint inflammation in his right elbow this spring, also could miss less time than expected. He is expected to be reevaluated at the end of March.
Considering ace pitcher Justin Verlander recently had groin surgery that is expected to sideline him for six weeks and pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. was likely going to be on an innings limit after missing all of 2019 due to Tommy John surgery, the delayed start to the season could be very beneficial for the Astros.
Verlander, who’s made 11 career Opening Day starts, battled groin and lat issues this spring, making just two Grapefruit League starts before being shut down and eventually undergoing the knife. It appears the winner of the 2019 AL Cy Young Award should have plenty of time to be ready for whenever the 2020 season gets underway. McCullers is healthy once again and looked good in the spring before things were shut down. A limit of, say, 150 innings, would be especially manageable if the regular season is shortened. Also, designated hitter Yordan Alvarez, last year's AL Rookie of the Year Award winner, was dealing with left knee soreness during Spring Training and will have extra time to heal.
The delayed start to the season provides the A’s more time for their injured players, such as A.J. Puk and Stephen Piscotty, to rehab. After being shut down with a left shoulder strain for about five days and getting scratched from his third Cactus League start, the initial best-case scenario for Puk, the A's No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, was to make the Opening Day roster as a reliever, since March 26 wouldn't have provided the left-hander enough time to get stretched back out for a starting role. Piscotty, who is currently shut down from all baseball activities with an oblique/rib cage strain that has kept him out of Cactus League action, could now miss fewer regular-season games than the A's were anticipating.
For a Seattle squad that has its focus on developing youth in 2020, the shutdown puts on hold the progress of its young players. While this season remains largely about letting youngsters like Evan White, Kyle Lewis, Jake Fraley, Shed Long, J.P. Crawford, Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn get playing time to show what they can do, that process is now on hold. The impact of the delay could be even greater on several key prospects -- like outfielder Jarred Kelenic and right-hander Logan Gilbert -- who figure to start the year in the Minors with the chance to advance to the Majors later in the year. A shortened season obviously gives them less time and opportunity to advance in 2020.
On the plus side, relievers Erik Swanson and Matt Magill had been dealing with arm issues early in camp, but now they will have added time to fully build up and be ready whenever the season starts. The delay also buys some time for reliever Austin Adams, who was expected to return around the middle of the season, as he recovers from right knee surgery, and right fielder Mitch Haniger, whose return is uncertain following a pair of surgeries to treat a sports hernia and microdiscectomy.
The biggest impact the delay will have on the Rangers has to do with their new $1.2 billion ballpark. Texas is getting ready to move into Globe Life Field, and there was much excitement and anticipation surrounding the opening. When baseball does resume, the Rangers may be able to generate some excitement and momentum surrounding their new ballpark, which might be difficult for other clubs to do under the present circumstances. That is the Rangers' challenge going forward: to regenerate the excitement and energy surrounding the opening of Globe Life Field.