Major League Baseball delays opening day because of coronavirus

Decision affects Tampa Bay Rays, all other MLB teams

Tampa Bay Rays' Austin Pruitt before Game 5 of a baseball American League Division Series against the Houston Astros in Houston, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
Tampa Bay Rays' Austin Pruitt before Game 5 of a baseball American League Division Series against the Houston Astros in Houston, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Baltimore slugger Chris Davis was driving down Florida's west coast on Interstate 75 from Sarasota to Fort Myers for an exhibition game against the Minnesota Twins when he got the call.

No game tonight. No games for a while.

“Pretty shocked,” Davis said, “just how quickly things have escalated.”

Major League Baseball delayed the start of its season by at least two weeks because of the coronavirus outbreak and suspended the rest of its spring training schedule.

Opening day had been scheduled for March 26. The decision announced by Commissioner Rob Manfred on Thursday left open whether each team would still play 162 games.

“It’s unfortunate but I think it’s the proper measure we need to take now given the situation the country’s in and the world’s in," New York Yankees star Giancarlo Stanton said. "It’s important to know that some things are bigger than baseball, bigger than sports at the moment. Once we’re able to hopefully get a hold on some things and get some questions answered we can figure out when things can continue.”

The announcement came while some spring training games in Florida were still in progress. MLB followed the NBA, NHL, MLS and college basketball tournaments in altering schedules because of the pandemic.

The minor league baseball season, which was to start April 9, also will be delayed along with qualifying in Arizona for this year's Olympic baseball tournament and for next year's World Baseball Classic.