Tag Archives: Opening Day

Ramping up: 10 days to go

On Monday, NPB spilled some more news about changes to its 2020 season made necessary by the coronavirus pandemic.

Draft moved to November

The Nikkan Sports reported this year’s amateur draft will be moved back from Oct. 26 to early November and that with no tournaments to attend, scouts have been able to observe high school practices since June 1 with the permission of schools’ director of baseball–yes, some Japanese high schools have directors of baseball.

Planning for cast of thousands

The Nikkan also reported on Monday’s liason meeting between NPB and pro soccer’s J-League. With the government having said that up to 5,000 fans could be allowed into ballparks from July 10, Dr. Mitsuo Kaku, an epidemiologist who has been advising the bodies, recommended teams consider the impact on public transportation and neighboring eating establishments in their planning.

“It’s extremely difficult to execute social distancing when we’re talking about thousands of people,” he said.

Saito: Uniform policy needed

After the conference, NPB commissioner Saito explained that NPB has finally begun to establish some testing policy. Until now, teams have created their own response to potential infections on the fly. According to the Nikkan, NPB will perform roughly 2,000 tests on players, staff and umpires prior to the June 19 season openers at a cost of about 20,000 yen ($180) per test.

There are roughly 1,000 players under contract with NPB clubs at any given time. The plan will be to have everyone undergo testing once a month.

“There are going to be so many different situations, that we absolutely have to lay out our plans in advance,” Saito said.

Last Wednesday, Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto and Giants catcher Takumi Oshiro tested positive for COVID-19. The Giants consulted with specialists before settling on a policy that would allow the two to return to practice after producing negative test results on consecutive days.

The guidelines NPB had leaked a week earlier would have required the pair to self-quarantine for two weeks after testing negative, virtually ruling them out of any games until July.

Ramping up: 23 days to go

On Thursday, the Nikkan Sports reported in Japanese on a few plans discussed on May 27 to reduce the burden on players who will be entering a season without the typical seven-week buildup while facing the added burden placed by possible exposure to the novel coronavirus.

Increase the imported player limit to 5

Since 2002, Rule 82.2 of NPB’s Baseball Charter has allowed up to four imported players on the 29-man active roster, with no more than three position players or pitchers.

On Wednesday, a special rule was discussed for this season that would allow five imports on the active roster, while retaining the four-man limit for the 25-man game roster. The additional active spots are typically used for starting pitchers between starts, and are one reason, along with a current 12-inning limit, that Japan virtually never sees a position player used as an emergency pitcher.

A primer on NPB’s import player rules and roster limits.

Increase the active roster beyond 29

On Monday, when NPB executives and their pro soccer counterparts from the J-League met with infectious disease experts, one recommendation was an expansion of the active rosters beyond 29. The rationale for this is that players may be exposed to the coronavirus and giving players more frequent rest could make them less vulnerable to infection in a season that is slated to run from June 19 to the end of November.

Curfews and time limits

Other items discussed were a possible 3-1/2 hour time limit on games and no extra innings. All official games that are declared ties when called either early because of playing conditions or at the end of 12 innings.

Last season, 247 of NPB’s 858 regular season games lasted longer than 3:30, with 150 of those exceeding 3:45 and 78 going past four hours.