Our baseball-deprived souls will finally have a box score to look at on Sunday. The Colorado Rockies are set to take on the Arizona Diamondbacks to open the 2021 Cactus League.
For the first time in nearly 12 months, fans will be allowed to watch the Colorado Rockies in person.
About 17 percent of stadium capacity will be permitted for season number 10 at Salt River Fields. The outfield lawn will be painted to ensure fans are spaced out, and zip ties will regulate who can sit where. Like the NBA, a ‘buffer zone’ will keep fans and players separated by a few empty rows of seating.
Jim McLennan of SB Nation’s AZ Snake Pit wrote about Salt River’s venue changes for 2021. Provisions include no player autographs, no cash transactions of any kind and mask mandates for fans at all times except while eating or drinking at their seats. The provisions did not steer fans away from the limited tickets, as the entire spring allotment for both the Rockies and Diamondbacks sold out in a matter of hours. The current prices on sites like StubHub and VividSeats are a prime example of high demand with a limited supply.
Austin Gomber will make the start against the Diamondbacks on Sunday afternoon, according to Bud Black. It is likely that Gomber won’t throw many pitches, as is the standard for many arms early in spring training. Zac Gallen will take the ball for the Diamondbacks on Sunday; he is projected by several to be Arizona’s Opening Day starter. While the starting lineups may look like a standard regular season game, several substitutions are bound to happen early.
Bud Black said Sunday’s game will “likely” go nine innings. Thomas Harding adds that “the D-backs will have eight innings of pitching, so the Rockies will pitch in the top of the ninth and the game will end regardless of the score.”
Through March 13th, managers can agree to play five-inning games. After March 13th, the minimum will jump to seven frames.
(What if this catches on for spring training in the future?)
Short of a few unhappy fans, an occasional shortened game seems practical this year. Teams may enter spring training with pitching limitations, as some starters may limit their work in March and no player below Triple-A will report to a spring training site until the big league spring schedule is over. Black further mentions that Germán Márquez, Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela and Jon Gray will not pitch in the first week of Cactus League action. Without four of the Rockies’ biggest arms until March 7th, Black may push for some shortened games. It will be interesting to follow who receives those early starts until the return of the four horsemen, and whether there is any significance for who gets the nod.
(Split-squad games are not scheduled in 2021, or else the ‘available pitchers’ section on the lineup card could be even more sparse. Drew Butera won’t be an option like he was in 2020.)
After the spring opener against Arizona, the Rockies will drive a 40-mile loop to the west as they take on the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch on Monday. They will have a rare day off on Tuesday, followed by a matchup against the A’s at Salt River. Colorado will round out the week with the Mariners, Brewers and Angels, all reasonably close within the Phoenix Valley. (Players might drive themselves to road games!)
The finalized Cactus League schedule features all 15 teams playing each other twice (home and home), with few exceptions. The Rockies will see the Padres on March 10 and 29, and the Dodgers on March 1 and 15.
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Fewer seats, fewer innings: The Cactus League is quite the hot ticket | Los Angeles Times ($)
Just as some may have anticipated, ticket prices are astronomical for limited-capacity baseball in warm weather.
Rockies expected to allow fans at Coors Field for 2021 season | The Denver Post ($)
Such could be the case for regular season games at 20th and Blake, too. 12,500 fans will be allowed through the gates on Opening Day against the Dodgers, and it will be the first time since September 29, 2019 that Coors Field will be open to fans.
Dodgers and Padres Spending Spree Creates NL West Class Divide | Yahoo! Sports
“We’re not rebuilding,” Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen said.
“We’re just focused on the Giants, on our camps and on our workouts,” [Giants manager Gabe Kapler] said.
Check this one out for an interesting NL West take from teams not named the Dodgers, Padres or Rockies. While divisional spending has seemed to confine itself in Southern California this year, we are left to see how the Diamondbacks, Giants and Rockies will strategize in a division that appears top-heavy. We are left to see what strategy will pay off the most.
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