What would a condensed spring training look like?

We've tried to stay optimistic around here for the last 2 1/2 months, so until someone gives us legitimate reason not to be, we'll stay optimistic and hope Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association work out a deal within the next week and ensure opening day will proceed March 31 as planned.

Even if that happens, though, it's going to be a wild scramble for everyone to get ready for spring training, open camps and get the proper work in to prepare players for the regular season.

Commissioner Rob Manfred has said spring training needs to be a minimum of four weeks, and you won't find much disagreement among players on that subject. After attempting to pull off a three-week summer camp in July 2020 before the 60-game condensed season began, everyone understands more prep time is needed.

So what would that look like? What needs to happen when, and how would it differ from a traditional spring training?

Let's say a new collective bargaining agreement is in place by the end of the week. Camps could then open in Florida and Arizona within a couple days, maybe Feb. 28 or March 1. More than 100 unsigned free agents would need to scramble to find work, and general managers could also pull off some trades during that tight window. Realistically, many of those moves probably wouldn't happen until after camps opened.

Traditionally, pitchers and catchers report first and work out themselves for about five days before position players join them. In this case, you'd have to assume everyone would report right away, because there might only be four or five days of workouts before the exhibition season began.

Manfred announced Thursday the start of Grapefruit and Cactus league play would be postponed until at least March 5. If they can make it happen that soon, it would benefit everyone.

Ballpark-of-the-Palm-Beaches-1B-Stands-View-Sidebar.jpgThe Nationals, who are scheduled to face the Mets in Port St. Lucie on March 5, have 22 games scheduled through March 27, when they are supposed to wrap up spring training with an unfortunately timed split-squad day against the Marlins and Mets. There are two off-days built into the calendar (March 8 and March 16) and you have to wonder if games would be added (even if only intrasquad contests) to make sure there are the maximum number of game opportunities possible for everyone to prepare, especially pitchers.

The original schedule would have seen the Nationals head north following those split-squad games on March 27 and spend a couple of days in D.C. It was never announced, but they've always held an exhibition game at Nationals Park during that window, and March 29 would be the day they'd typically do it before heading up to New York on March 30 for a pre-opening day workout at Citi Field.

In this case, it's possible teams would stay in Florida and Arizona as long as possible, cutting out the quick trips home for northern exhibitions so they could play another day or two in warm weather before leaving for opening day.

The idea would be to try to cram as many exhibition game days into the schedule as possible, bringing that current total of 22 up to perhaps 26 or 27.

It would still be a condensed spring compared to what everyone is used to, but it would have to suffice. And it would certainly beat the alternative of a delayed start to the regular season, which sadly we have to acknowledge is still very much a possibility, no matter how much optimism we try to spread around here.

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