LOS ANGELES: Major League Baseball and the league’s players union have agreed health and safety protocols for the 2021 season, retaining two innovations introduced during last year’s pandemic-shortened campaign, the league said on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).

A statement from MLB said the new 162-game season, which is due to start on April 1, would continue to use seven-inning doubleheader games to ease fixture congestion and use automatic base runners in extra innings.

Giancarlo Stanton20210211 800x563 - MLB agrees health protocols, confirms April 1 start
Giancarlo Stanton (No. 27) of the New York Yankees slides into second for a double against Whit Merrifield (No. 15) of the Kansas City Royals in the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium on May 20, 2018 (May 21 in Manila) in Kansas City, Missouri. AFP FILE PHOTO

But the league has dispensed with the universal designated hitter rule used in both the American League and National League during last year’s 60-game season.

“We were able to complete a successful and memorable 2020 season due to the efforts and sacrifices made by our players, club staff and MLB employees to protect one another,” MLB said in its announcement.

Last year’s baseball season was left in limbo as Covid-19 shut down North American sport just before the new season was due to start.

After wrangling between league chiefs and the players union, a 60-game season finally started in July.

The MLB had initially proposed a slight reduction in games in 2021, from 162 to 154, with the season starting roughly a month later on April 28.

However that proposal was rejected by the Major League Baseball Players Association meaning the full 162-game regular season will start on April 1. Teams will begin reporting for spring training next week.

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