Triple-A teams across the country announced their official full schedules today, and they added six more games from the original schedules released last fall, bringing the season to 150 games, adding three home games and three road games. It will be the longest minor league season at any level since 1964, when the Pacific Coast League played 156 games. That season, the International League played 154.
For the Giants-affiliated Sacramento River Cats, it extends a road trip in Salt Lake with three more games on the road against the Salt Lake Bees, and then three games at home against the Las Vegas Aviators. In a quirk of the schedule, the River Cats will play only nine home games in September (versus 16 home games), and all of them will be against the Aviators. The new Triple-A season finale will be September 28th, a Wednesday.
Before the pandemic and MLB’s restructuring of minor league baseball, all four minor leagues played 140 games, usually ending on Labor Day in early September. 2020 saw a reduced schedule due to a delayed start from the Pandemic, with Triple-A playing 110 games, with an added 10-game “Final Stretch.” In November of 2020, MLB announced adjusted schedule lengths for each league starting in 2022. Triple-A was to play 144 games, Double-A would play 138, and Single-A would play 132. Only Triple-A has gotten a further adjustment.
In the past, MLB teams were allowed to call up any players on their 40-man roster in September, which coincided with the minor leagues’ early ending. Since the pandemic, those roster call-ups have been limited, and currently allow only 2 extra players to be called up during September. Now Triple-A teams will play later, and players will be ready and available if needed for call-ups to the Majors through the end of the season. The MLB regular season will end on October 2nd, five days after the new Triple-A ending.
The change to the end of the season leaves a couple of unusual quirks. The new season structure is to play six games against the same team, and use Monday as a travel day, except for a couple of times in the season. With the original schedule, the final Monday would be a game day, with an overnight travel. The extension will mean teams will play 12 straight games with no off day, and now will travel on the final Sunday of the season, which would normally be a highly attended game.