Spring Training 2021 Is Here! How and What To Watch
Pitchers and catchers reported to Major League Baseball camps in Florida and Arizona beginning February 17, and full-squad workouts began February 22 for the 30 teams.
While fans can watch their local clubs play Grapefruit and Cactus League games through their TV provider, the growing use of live-streaming services offers a far larger slate for fans seeking to watch out-of-market games.
When will the MLB exhibition season start and end?
First pitch begins February 28 when 28 MLB teams are scheduled to take the field. The remaining 2, the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs, begin their exhibition seasons the following day, playing the Florida Marlins and San Diego Padres, respectively.
Spring training runs through March 30, and the regular season begins April 1.
How can I best watch spring training games?
MLB.TV offers a slate of nearly 300 games that subscribers can view live or on demand on their favorite supported devices, such as the MLB app. Be warned that blackout restrictions apply as typically viewers are prohibited from watching teams in their own market through the package and, instead, must rely on local coverage offered by TV providers.
Fans might also want to check with their favorite teams for additional ways to follow the action. For instance, the Chicago White Sox are offering nine games that will be streamed on the team’s website whitesox.com, Facebook page and official YouTube channel.
If a game is on a regional network and you don’t have cable, in most cases you can stream it using Hulu, SlingTV, YouTube TV and fuboTV.
Also, the MLB Network is televising a limited package of games nationally.
How is this season’s spring training different from the past?
Due to the pandemic, the League will limit the number of tickets available per game, as seating capacity cannot exceed 25% at any venue.
MLB will also enforce new health and safety protocols, including requiring fans to wear masks and sit in a pod-style seating system. Fans sitting in “pods” alongside friends and family will have to remain socially distanced from others and can only take off their masks to drink and eat.
Players, coaches and on-field personnel will undergo regular mandatory COVID-19 testing, and those who test positive will be required to isolate for 10 days or more.
The Cactus League schedule will operate as usual with teams playing two games against each other at ballparks in Arizona in close proximity. The Grapefruit League, however, is limiting travel for safety reasons by splitting teams on Florida’s east and west coasts into groups that only play among themselves.
What are some key pre-season storylines to watch?
Will the Houston Astros be booed mercilessly by fans?
Heading into last season, it was reported that baseball fans across the country were preparing to heckle the team as hard as they could after the Astros’ sign escapades were exposed.
Then the pandemic struck in March 2020, midway through pre-season. That halted the start of the regular season until July—and fans did not attend games until the World Series in October.
Now, nearly a year after MLB’s review of the Astros, major named participants like Carlos Beltrán and A.J. Hinch have retired or moved on elsewhere.
Will Astros’ holdovers like José Altuve be treated like others when they play before opposing teams’ fans this year? Even if they are, they’ll still catch a break because it’s likely MLB will limit seating capacity throughout the 2021 season, so there will be less fans on deck to boo or cheer.
Will Francisco Lindor and the Mets iron out a new contract?
The newly acquired star shortstop is entering the walk year of his existing contract. He has strongly hinted he’d like to get a new deal done in spring training—and, if not, ride out the 2021 regular season and hit the open market in free agency.
Even though the Mets now have baseball’s wealthiest owner, Steve Cohen, this would be a gamble.
Lindor, who was traded in a blockbuster deal to the Mets over the winter from the Cleveland Indians, is a generational talent with a million-dollar smile who’s made for the bright lights of New York City. The Mets can’t let him get away, and their best bet is locking him to a new deal this spring rather than wait until the off-season.
Can the Los Angeles Dodgers repeat as champions?
MLB hasn’t seen a repeat champion since the New York Yankees “three-peat” when winning three straight from 1998 to 2000.
However, on paper, the Dodgers look to be heavy favorites. They’re led by two former MVPs (Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger), and if this wasn’t enough, they brought in reigning Cy Young Award–winner Trevor Bauer in the off-season to bolster a pitching rotation that already includes superstars Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler.
It won’t be easy. The San Diego Padres are among the National League’s most talented teams—and are in the Dodgers’ division. The Atlanta Braves and the Mets also expect to make noise. But if anyone is suited to be the first repeat champion in two decades, it’s the Dodgers.
Program availability may vary and is subject to change.