Call to arms: Compressed schedule could mean more pitchers

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Chicago Cubs pitcher Jharel Cotton, left, throws alongside other pitchers during a spring training baseball workout Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

NEW YORK – When and if opening day comes around this year, New York Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake anticipates a brimming bullpen.

Major League Baseball and the players' association have talked about a compressed schedule to get in as many games as possible. That will set off a call to arms.

"I think if you have 15 guys it gives you some depth," Blake said Wednesday.

Active rosters were to expand from 25 to 26 from opening day through Aug. 31 in exchange for the limit dropping from 40 to 28 from Sept. 1 on. When a strike delayed the start of the 1995 season until April 25, teams were allowed 28 players through May 15.

There is talk of 28- to 30-man rosters following the shutdown caused by the new coronavirus. Teams are preparing for a season that could extend into late November or even December, if domes and ballparks in warm-weather cities are used.

"Both the PA and the MLB are very, very adamant about playing as many games as we can this year," Seattle pitcher Marco Gonzales said. "I think it favors everyone -- the fans, the ownership group, the players. I think it's the right thing to do, and so we're going to probably have to get creative on how to do that. There's been talks of doubleheaders, skipping off days here and there. There's going to be a lot of things that we have to get creative with."

Teams that carried nine or 10 pitchers in the 1960s and 1970s have had 13 in recent years and even 14 for some American League games. A new rule this season limits pitchers to 13 through August and 14 the rest of the way, but that could be tossed in a reconfigured season as openers and perhaps six-man rotations gain prominence.

"We haven't really mapped it out that far yet," Blake said during a conference call from his home in Ohio. "We obviously know that our depth will be tested, as will both teams."