The Nationals unveiled a revised spring training schedule today, and though it doesn’t feature many changes, it is missing something notable from every previous spring: long road trips.
In an attempt to reduce travel and the number of opponents faced to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Nationals will only face the four clubs that train within a 45-minute drive of West Palm Beach, Fla. They’ll continue to face the Astros at their shared complex, plus the Marlins and Cardinals in nearby Jupiter and the Mets a little farther up Interstate 95 in Port St. Lucie.
Gone are four originally scheduled games against the Braves (who train in North Port on Florida’s Gulf Coast) and the Tigers (who train in Lakeland in Central Florida). Trips to and from those sites are upwards of 2 1/2 hours each way.
The elimination of those games does leave extra off-days on the schedule (six now, up from two originally). The Nats are expected to hold intrasquad games on at least some of those days.
The Grapefruit League opener also has been pushed back from Feb. 27 to Feb. 28. The Nationals now open their 24-game exhibition schedule against the Cardinals in Jupiter. They’ll now wrap up March 29 against the Astros, one day later than originally planned.
That gives the club two days off in Washington before the nationally televised April 1 opener against the Mets, which will start at 7:09 p.m.
For those who missed Thursday’s announcement of regular season game times, the Nationals will play most weeknight home games at 7:05 p.m. after bumping up start times to 6:05 p.m. last season with no fans in attendance. Most Sunday home games will now start at 1:05 p.m., a move up from the traditional 1:35 p.m. start time that had been in place for many years.
The team has not made any official announcement about fan policies for the 2021 season. FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches plans to begin selling a limited number of tickets for spring training games soon.