Former Sea Dogs players C.J. Chatham, left, and Marcus Wilson are expected to be part of the 60-player pool for the Boston Red Sox, which will be announced Sunday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Calling this a “deathwatch” may be a tad dramatic, but when Major League Baseball announced that it would finally resume spring training, the anticipation of the next announcement began.

Killing the 2020 minor league season has been a slow process.

“Still no news at all,” Sea Dogs President Geoff Iacuessa said Friday – patiently answering the same question I’ve been asking him for weeks.

And as of Saturday afternoon?

“Nothing yet,” said Iacuessa, although he did mention the Sea Dogs were expanding their curbside concession business into this week, Tuesday through Thursday.

But no baseball.

It seems that MLB is waiting to set in place its team “pools” – 60-man lists, half of which will be on the MLB active roster, the other half reserves. The deadline for teams to submit their pools is 4 p.m. Sunday.

Then, maybe, there will be word on the minor league season.

Major league spring training (July edition) will be held at two sites for each team – the Red Sox will use Fenway Park and McCoy Stadium, home of their Triple-A team in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. In traditional spring trainings, with so many players, extra coaches from minor league teams are usually needed. But Sea Dogs Manager Joe Oliver is not headed for Boston or Pawtucket.

“I’m actually headed to the grocery story,” Oliver said with a chuckle, from his home in Orlando.

“I haven’t heard anything.”

With the coronavirus nightmare still ongoing, teams likely want to keep down the number of personnel, including extra coaches.

A spike in COVID-19 cases in Florida will likely keep the Red Sox complex in Florida closed for some time. Maybe coaches and minor leaguers can gather this fall for the instructional leagues.

Any thought of the minor leagues playing this year is a dream, especially at the upper levels. Not with many Triple-A and Double-A players be in major league pools, but minor league stadiums are being used for the reserves. The Pirates plan to use the Curve’s stadium in Double-A Altoona for their reserves.

For now, it appears, the only minor leaguers who will be on the field for organized work are those included in the pool.

So what happens to prospects who the Red Sox want to develop but are not ready for the majors? It’s likely Boston will place a few among its reserves, with no intention of calling them up. At the top of that list are first baseman Triston Casas and pitcher Jay Groome – two first-round draft picks out of high school who have never played higher than Class A.

Groome, 21, needs to pitch. The 2016 draft pick has been slowed by injuries, including Tommy John surgery, and has logged only 66 professional innings. He’ll likely have to be placed on the 40-man roster this fall because he will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.

Casas, 20, hit 20 home runs last year, his first full professional season. He has potential, and the Red Sox can’t let it waste away for a year. Working out with older reserves (intra-squad games?) seems to be the best option.

In a normal season, Groome and Casas may have reached Portland sometime this year. If all goes well for Groome, he could start next season at Hadlock, while Casas could be here at any time in 2021.

Other players who were expected to play at Hadlock this year will be on the reserve list. That includes outfielder Marcus Wilson. Although he has a .225 average in 74 Double-A games, he is on the Red Sox 40-man roster and automatically in the pool.

Although Jarren Duran hasn’t played above Double-A, the speedy outfielder is expected to be part of Boston’s 60-play pool for the upcoming season. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Outfielder Jarren Duran has vaulted up the prospect list. He’s played only 82 Double-A games (.250 average) and likely would have returned to Portland for more seasoning. Now he will be on the reserve team with a chance of being called up.

Top pitching prospect Bryan Mata figured to be in Portland for at least half a season. Depending on his development, he may not see Hadlock again.

Infielder Jeter Downs and catcher Connor Wong, two players obtained in the Mookie Betts deal, would have been Sea Dogs this year. Now they should be Red Sox reserves, and may be in Triple-A next year.

WHILE WE speculate about what will happen, Iacuessa and colleagues are looking at ways to use Hadlock Field. Besides expanding takeout food service another week, the franchise is still hoping to hold a “dine-in” experience at the ballpark. More details (maybe) to come.

The sold-out “golf” event from July 9-12 may get additional dates. The Sea Dogs staff continues to look at other events.

How about a baseball game? If the pros can’t come, invite local college and high school standouts (an all-star game?) before they go back to school. The food and golf events are fun … but … please … baseball.

MEANWHILE, OTHER towns may not see pro baseball again. MLB still appears determined to reduce the number of minor league teams at the short-season level. Some advanced level towns with poor facilities or poor attendance (or both) will also be cut. Binghamton, which has been a Mets affiliate in the Eastern League since 1992, is on the chopping block. The Double-A affiliation could move to Brooklyn, where the Mets have a successful short-season team, the Cyclones.


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