The inaugural season of the Worcester Red Sox will be delayed after Major League Baseball informed teams on Tuesday that the start of the 2021 Triple-A season will pushed be back by a month.

The Double-A season remains on schedule with the Portland Sea Dogs set to open on May 4. Weather permitting, baseball will be played at Hadlock Field for the first time since Sept. 2, 2019.

MLB says it is delaying the Triple-A season so major league clubs can operate alternate training sites – similar to those used during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season which provided a nearby location to train and develop players during the shortened MLB campaign.

According to mlb.com, it’s still undetermined how many players will be permitted at the alternate sites this year. Last season, clubs had 60-man player pools, and those who were included – but not on the active major league roster – were able to train at the alternate site. The difference this year is that there will be a concurrent minor league spring training in April, giving clubs more options for how to get their players prepared for the season.

The Triple-A season will now start in early May, around the same time as the Double-A and Class A seasons. Some Triple-A teams tentatively are set to begin their seasons on May 4, with the rest two days later. Worcester was scheduled to begin its first season as the Boston’s Triple-A affiliate on April 6 at Scranton Wilkes-Barre with its home opener on April 13 against Lehigh Valley.

Worcester is now tentatively scheduled to open the season in Buffalo on May 4, with its home opener at Polar Park against Syracuse on May 11.

The original schedule created a limited, but real, logistical conundrum: If the Triple-A season were to begin on April 6, those players slated for Triple-A rosters would need to participate in some form of spring training in March. But major league clubs were limited to 75 players participating in big league camp at their facilities in March, with minor league spring training scheduled to begin when they vacated those facilities for the regular season.

In other words, each team would have to carry its entire Triple-A roster as part of a 75-player spring training pool or risk some players starting cold on April 6. Most Triple-A candidates would likely be in camp already anyway, but with teams trying to give young prospects exposure, too, the numbers could get tight for some teams. The whole thing amounted to a headache for front office staff trying to allocate talent to minor league rosters.

Now, teams will be able to option players back and forth to the alternate sites as they did in 2020. If a player is optioned from the major league team to the alternate site, that counts as a use of one of that player’s option years, much like it would if he were assigned to Triple-A under normal circumstances.

Most teams have not made their alternate sites official yet, though some may be forced to consider setting them up in Florida or Arizona because of unpredictable weather at facilities up north. Teams that play a large number of April games on the road would see little benefit from keeping prospects close to their major league park anyway, and could therefore afford to keep their alternate sites in friendlier climates.

The Boston Red Sox are scheduled to play 16 of their first 23 games at Fenway Park.


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