With Opening Day nearly two weeks away, MLB umpires are weighing the season’s risks during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, 11 major league umpires have either exercised their right to opt-out or decided not to participate during the 2020 season. Some of the umpires “are said to have family members who are ill.”
MLB typically uses 19 crews with 76 umpires during a season, meaning the league could lose 15% of its squad. The current list includes nearly 90 umpires in MLB.
Despite the notable loss, the league won’t be at a loss for filling the vacant positions. Since Minor League Baseball’s 2020 season is canceled, crews from those ranks can step up to help out in the big leagues.
In late June, ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported MLB was working on an opt-out option with pay for higher-risk individuals in umpire crews. According to Rogers, the league has considered using taxi squads with three minor league umpires at alternate sites near major league ballparks in case they need to step in for regular umpire that’s sick or injured. MLB reportedly has also weighed reducing umps’ travel during the shortened 60-game season by having the same crew stay for a team’s entire homestand.
Several players have already opted out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns, including David Price, Ryan Zimmerman and Buster Posey.
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