MLB serves up a frosty start to new season, more snow coming
Steady and sure-handed, Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier is a confident mitt man.
But the Gold Glover didn’t feel that way this week, standing in the snow globe of PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
“I always want the ball to hit to me, but that was the one time where I was hoping it wouldn’t be hit my way,” Dozier said. “It would have been very tough trying to catch a popup in those conditions.”
From Yankee Stadium to Great American Ball Park to Comerica Park, the big winner so far this season is the wintry mix. Nine games already postponed amid a chilly spring, several others held in frosty settings.
It was 27 degrees at Coors Field in Denver on Friday, when snow and sleet caused a one-hour delay and brought out ski masks for the Rockies’ home opener against Atlanta.
Cleveland also opened in bitter and blustery conditions, beating Kansas City 3-2.
“I think my lipstick was frozen,” longtime Indians fan Rita Hoppert said. “All wins are nice wins. It got really cold.”
No luck at AT&T Park in San Francisco, either. Despite a more seasonable climate, the Giants were rained out at home for the first time since 2006.
Bundled-up players and fans might not catch a break anytime soon. The weekend forecast in New York, Washington and several other spots is for weather better suited for throwing snowballs than pitching baseballs.
At Target Field in Minneapolis, there’s an outside chance Seattle and Minnesota could play the coldest game on record in big league history. The current mark is a first-pitch temperature of 23 degrees when Colorado hosted Atlanta in 2013.
Mariners manager Scott Servais said the heated benches and hot air blowers will help.
“Mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it shouldn’t matter,” he said.
Maybe, said Boston outfielder Mookie Betts.
It was barely above freezing at Fenway Park as he tried to limber up before Thursday’s home opener against Tampa Bay.
“It’s cold. You keep trying to play mind tricks, but it’s still 40 degrees. No matter how much you say ‘mind over matter,’ it still matters,” Betts said.
Some have wondered why Major League Baseball doesn’t start the season only in places such as California, Texas and the South, and domed stadiums.
It’s not that easy, Commissioner Rob Manfred explained a few years ago.
“Making those warm weather schedules work is more difficult as a political matter than you might imagine,” Manfred said in 2015. “The warm weather cities don’t want all those early dates when kids aren’t out of school.”
Red Sox manager Alex Cora wore three layers and a jacket for the home opener, which the AL East champions won 3-2 in 12 innings.
“It’s funny because it’s cold in April, but it’s never cold in October. And the weather is still cold in October. But it’s something about it in October we don’t care. And in April we do,” he said.
“Where are we shooting to go? It’s going to be cold in October. This is a dress rehearsal,” Cora said.
The season began on March 29 and marked the earliest start date in the majors, excluding special openers in international sites such as Japan and Australia.
As part of the labor agreement between players and owners, this season will span 187 days, instead of 183. That will allow for extra days off and more room to reschedule makeups. It also sets up for Game 7 of the World Series, if needed, to be played in October, rather than November.
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn admits it’s tough to see games played in flurries and frigid conditions. Chicago has preemptively moved up Monday night’s game against Tampa Bay to an afternoon start because of the expected chill.
Hahn said the additional four days off will benefit teams later in the spring and summer.
“It’s a part of the price to pay for that, I think,” he said. “Unless you’re going to push back the postseason, which I think is distasteful to a lot of people, or shorten the season, which is probably a long shot, I would say there’s probably not much we can do.”
As in, no going back to a 154-game schedule or adding in a bunch of doubleheaders.
MLB has tried to adjust the schedule in the past to have teams with warmer climates and indoor parks play first. A lot of them did open at home this year, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona, San Diego, Miami, Atlanta and more.
But some openers are bound to be in New York, Kansas City and Detroit. The Tigers are playing their first 25 games in Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Comerica Park.
“You’re not going to get me to criticize Major League Baseball. I’ve already seen my face enough on TV,” said Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire, who was ejected on opening day.
“I’m not a schedule-maker. I just let them do their thing,” he said. “We’ve always said it would be nice to start down South for the first week and play in better weather areas. Eventually, you’re going to have a home opener soon. Our folks don’t want to wait.”
In the meantime, players do their best to cope.
White Sox teammates Leury Garcia and Yolmer Sanchez said they slathered Vaseline on their bodies to keep warm. Earlier this week, a few Mets built a snowman at Citi Field — balls for buttons, bats for arms — after their game against Philadelphia was called off.
It was 42 degrees for Washington’s home opener Thursday, an 8-2 loss to the Mets.
“Your hands being cold. Gripping the bat. I mean, that’s probably one of the hardest things,” Nationals star Bryce Harper said.
The wind chill factor was in the 20s on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, and snow fell on and off all game. The announced crowd was 20,186 — even with a $1 ticket promotion, maybe there were 10,000 people inside the park.
Twins closer Fernando Rodney finished off a 7-3 win. At one point, he tilted back his head on the mound and caught flurries with his mouth.
“No, I’m not cold. But it is cold,” he said. “But you know it’s cold outside. Nothing we can do. Just try to find a way to get out of the inning as quick as you can.”
AP Sports Writers Jimmy Golen, Kyle Hightower, Andrew Seligman, Dave Campbell, Howard Fendrich and Will Graves contributed to this report.