TOLEDO, Ohio — It's another hit to the Toledo Mud Hens season, who had been anticipated to begin April 6.
ESPN sources first reported that because the MLB will again use alternate, developmental sites for the 2021 season, the Triple-A season will be delayed by at least a month.
The Mud Hens, who play in the top-tier Triple-A, confirmed in a statement that the MLB decided to delay the start date.
The Mud Hens were informed Tuesday night.
The prior April 6 start date will now be delayed, pushed back to around the start of Double-A and the other minor professional leagues. Those leagues are expected to begin play the first week of May.
Some executives reported to ESPN that they believe the alternate sites could last longer into the season. Last year, alternate sites were used as training facilities for players likeliest to be called up to their major league teams. Fifth Third Field was used as a alternate training site for the Detroit Tigers, their major league affiliate, due to proximity to Comerica Park.
To make up lost games, Triple-A teams now expect the season to run into September.
The hope is that more players will be able to be vaccinated as the COVID-19 vaccination process gains steam and that baseball will return to a sense of normalcy. Vaccinations would allow an easier way for Triple-A players to join their MLB teams - a large benefit as call-ups are frequent for the MLB's top-tier farm system.
Because the Mud Hens have recently learned about this delay, they are determining what this means for the team and the 2021 season. Information will be released to fans and partners as it is made available.
WTOL 11 anchor Jeff Smith will be speaking soon with Lucas County Commissioner Gary Byers about the season delay and this article will be updated with the latest information as we receive it.
This is a developing story.
Reporting from ESPN's Jeff Passan contributed to this story.