After months of waiting for fans, teams and pundits, Major League Baseball will finally make its return to television sets across America.
This year’s MLB season will look quite different due to COVID-19 when it gets underway Thursday night. Beyond having stadiums without spectators, the season will be shortened to just 60 games — 102 games fewer than the norm. In addition, all teams (even the National League) will trot a designated hitter to the plate, while relief pitchers will be forced to face at least three batters before getting replaced.
Add in the fact that each game this season will make almost three times as much of an impact on a team’s record and standing, this baseball season is poised to be one of the most unique since the league’s founding in 1903.
Without any minor league baseball this season, teams will have a 60-man Player Pool to choose from — in addition to their 40-man roster, teams will have an addition 20 players under contract that will be paid and can step in to play in case of an injury or a positive COVID-19 test. This has allowed extra roster spots for some of baseball’s top prospects, while giving some extra space for teams to work their rosters without a triple-A team.
In total, six former Mountaineers have been named to a team’s 60-man Player Pool:
Michael Grove, Los Angeles Dodgers RHP
- Years at WVU: 2016-2017
- Hometown: Wheeling, West Virginia
- Season opener: 7/23 vs. San Francisco, 10 p.m. (ESPN)
- Acquisition: 2018 MLB Draft, second round
- Grove spent last season in the single-A California League playing for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, his first season as a pro. He started in all 21 of his appearances, but injury concerns limited his time on the mound.
David Carpenter, Cincinnati Reds RHP
- Years at WVU: 2004-2006
- Hometown: Morgantown, West Virginia
- Season opener: 7/24 vs. Detroit, 6:10 p.m. (Fox Sports Ohio, Fox Sports Detroit)
- Acquisition: Signed as free agent in December
- Carpenter has been a journeyman in the majors over the last decade, as the Reds mark his seventh home at the top level. In his six years at the major league level, he has put together an 11-11 record and a 3.69 ERA.
Alek Manoah, “Nomadic” Blue Jays RHP
- Years at WVU: 2017-2019
- Hometown: Homestead, Florida
- Season opener: 7/24 at Tampa Bay, 6:40 p.m. (Fox Sports Sun, Sportsnet)
- Acquisition: 2019 MLB Draft, first round
- Manoah has only had a short stint in pro baseball so far, making just six appearances for the single-A Vancouver Canadians with limited time on the mound. In that time, however, he established himself as a top prospect for the now-homeless Blue Jays by giving up just 13 hits and 5 runs in a total of 17 innings pitched.
Jedd Gyorko, Milwaukee Brewers IF
- Years at WVU: 2008-2010
- Hometown: Morgantown, West Virginia
- Season opener: 7/24 at Chicago Cubs, 7:10 p.m. (ESPN)
- Acquisition: Signed as free agent in January
- Gyorko got off to a strong start in his career with the Padres, but his career really found its footing when he was traded to the Cardinals after the 2015 season. He was a staple for St. Louis, peaking with a .272 batting average in 2017. He hit a rough patch in 2019, suffering injuries before ultimately getting traded to the Dodgers, who ultimately didn’t renew his contract. He was signed in January by Milwaukee, where he is projected to share time with Eric Sogard at third base.
Ryan McBroom, Kansas City Royals 1B
- Years at WVU: 2011-2014
- Hometown: Fredericksburg, Virginia
- Season opener: 7/24 at Cleveland, 7:10 p.m. (Fox Sports Kansas City, SportsTime Ohio)
- Acquisition: Traded August 31, 2019 from Yankees
- McBroom made his major league debut just days after arriving in Kansas City, appearing in 23 games. His career got off to a nice start, too — in 75 at-bats, McBroom put together a .293 batting average with 22 hits and 6 RBIs.
John Means, Baltimore Orioles LHP
- Years at WVU: 2013-2014
- Hometown: Olathe, Kansas
- Season opener: 7/24 at Boston, 7:30 p.m. (NESN, MASN)
- Means was called up by Baltimore at the end of the 2018 season, but didn’t see action until his first career start in 2019 on April 9. That campaign saw the rookie become the first WVU alumnus to make the MLB All-Star Game with a 2.50 ERA — the second-best among American League pitchers at that point. He was selected as the Orioles’ Opening Day starter with great fanfare on social media, but he was recently placed on the 10-day injured list with left shoulder fatigue.