A young fan watches the New York Yankees during a spring training workout on Monday in Tampa, Fla. John Raoux/Associated Press

Play ball!

The Boston Red Sox reported to spring training on Sunday, later than scheduled but earlier than a lot of us expected thanks to a last-minute agreement between Major League Baseball and its players’ association that salvaged a 162-game season.

Now it’s a sprint to the starting line. Everything this spring is condensed, with workouts starting Monday and Grapefruit League games starting Thursday.

Teams spent the past days looking to make trades and sign players that will help them succeed in the coming season. We have the next few weeks to analyze what the Sox will look like when they open up the season at Yankee Stadium on April 7.

For now, let’s look at how the game will be played. Thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement, baseball will have a significantly different look.

Gone are two of the rule changes enacted over the last two years. There will be no more seven-inning doubleheaders. That will be significant since baseball plans to make up some of the two series lost to the lockout by playing doubleheaders. Those doubleheaders will be nine-inning games, meaning teams will have their pitching depth put to the test.


Teams will only be allowed to have 13 pitchers on the roster. That rule was put in place two years ago when rosters expanded to 26 players, but was put on hold because of the pandemic. Now bullpen spots will be more precious than ever – especially in those doubleheaders.

The other rule that is gone is the extra-inning ghost runner. No longer will there be a man on second base when the 10th inning begins. Purists won out here, so expect longer extra-inning games … and more pressure on those 13-man pitching staffs.

You can expect more offense in the National League, with the designated hitter finally becoming universal. For American League teams like the Red Sox, this means pitchers won’t have to hit when they play interleague games on the road.

And there will be more of those coming. Starting in 2023 every team will play every other team at least once. That means a series against every National League team for Boston, and fewer games against the Yankees and the rest of the AL East.

That’s a year away. Another major change this season is the expanded playoff. Six teams from each league now will qualify for the postseason, with the top two division winners receiving byes while the others will play best-of-three series to move on. No more one-game wild-card showdowns. And all three games will be played at the home of the higher seeded team.

To keep things moving in this expanded postseason MLB is doing away with tiebreaker games. If two teams tie for the final playoff spot that tie will be broken by head-to-head records and other criteria. No more playing a 163rd game to get to the postseason. The days of Bucky Dent are long gone.


Behind the scenes there are luxury tax changes and a new draft lottery meant to discourage tanking. And there are more rule changes expected.

There are bigger changes coming. The new CBA will allow MLB to enact major changes for 2023 with 45 days’ notice. Three rules are already expected to be enacted then:

A pitch clock intended to speed up play.

Regulations on where infielders can be placed, intended to open up holes and increase offense.

Larger bases, intended to increase stolen-base attempts.

None of that will happen this year. What will happen now is baseball. After a 99-day lockout, the game returning to spring training fields is the best change the sport could ask for.

Tom Caron is a studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN. His column runs on Tuesdays in the Portland Press Herald.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.