The “deadline” for the baseball regular season to start on time is slated to be this Monday, the last day of February. There is a reason for this as March 31st is scheduled to be Opening Day and players need a minimum of four weeks to be ready to play. This does give a few days of leeway before the season is delayed.
MLB players already have an increased risk of soft tissue injuries without the standard six weeks to prepare. Pitchers especially need the full month and a half, and as a result, “pitchers will be on a stricter pitch count and throw less innings to start the season. This will likely result in teams carrying an extra pitcher, which will add an interesting dynamic to rosters given the reported acceptance of the universal designated hitter.”
Yes, players are working out on their own, but it is hard to mimic all the normal spring training activities. In the 60 game COVID shortened 2020 season, there was a spike in soft tissue injuries and teams were allowed to carry extra pitchers. When the NFL had a shortened preseason due to COVID, there was a corresponding increase in muscle and soft tissues injuries in the early regular season.
Players are already attributing health issues to the lockout. Lance McCullers, the Astros pitcher who missed most of the playoffs, says his forearm rehab has been interrupted by the stoppage, and it seems he will not be ready for Opening Day.
With pitchers already affected, position players run the higher risk of injury too, if there is not the four weeks to prepare. That is why they may have to cancel regular season games if a settlement is not reached.
At least the sides are now meeting daily, but the clock is ticking if they want to avoid a delay of Opening Day at the end of next month.