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All you need to know about baseball’s return

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There’s a lot of quirks and rules to learn.

Fenway Park During Coronavirus Pandemic Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Baseball is coming back. Or, I suppose more accurately, there is a plan in place for baseball to come back. On Monday, the players rejected the final offer for a new deal from the owners, meaning Rob Manfred imposed a season under the March 26 agreement. Players still had to approve that, but that’s exactly what happened on Tuesday and now baseball is officially on its way back. Players are heading to teams’ home parks for a roughly three-week spring training and Opening Day is slated for July 23 and July 24.

Obviously, this is not going to be a normal season with only 60 games being played over the course of 66 days. It’s not like anything we’ve ever seen, and that goes well beyond just the length of the schedule. There are a number of rules aimed at both keeping players safe from the pandemic, easing the return after a condensed training camp, and making things work logistically. I’m going to run through all of the relevant information that I can find. Things are changing and coming to light pretty quickly, so forgive me if I miss anything. Let me know in the comments and I can add them in as I find new things out. There’s so much going on here I’m just going bullet point style.

Shoutout to Chris Cotillo and Jayson Stark, who spent most of yesterday tweeting out these pieces of information.

  • We’ll start with the schedule itself. As I mentioned above, the schedule is set for 60 games. They are also going to play regionalized schedules with all games against division opponents and the corresponding National League division. In other words, the Red Sox will play AL East and NL East teams. They’ll have 40 games against divisional opponents and 20 games against non-divisional.
  • Along these same lines, there will be a universal DH for the coming season. The final proposals included this for 2021 as well, but for now this is only for 2020.
  • For spring training, things are going to be broken down into three phases. First, teams will be split into groups with separate workouts. Then, there will be larger workouts and intrasquad games. And then finally there could be exhibition games between different teams. Those exhibition games will be different, though, with defensive managers having the ability to end an inning before three outs, among other quirks.
  • For potential COVID infections, there will be a separate IL for players who test positive, show symptoms or could have possibly come into contact with someone who tested positive. There is no maximum or minimum number of days a player can spend on this IL.
  • The transaction freeze ends on Friday at 12:00 PM ET. There will also be a trade deadline this summer, coming on August 31.
  • Roster sizes are going to evolve as the season goes on. Teams will start with 30 active players, then move down to 28 after two weeks, and then down to 26 after four weeks. Teams will also be carrying three-man taxi squads on the road, and if you carry the maximum of three players one must be a catcher.
  • Extra innings are going to be a bit different this year. The league wants to avoid long games, so we will see the minor-league rule in which a player — the one who made the final out in the previous inning — starts at second base. Personally, I’d rather see ties.
  • There’s a lot of safety stuff in there, ranging from daily tests and monthly antibody tests, the ability for high-risk players to opt out of the season, pitchers carrying a white rag rather than licking fingers, and a ban on spitting. There’s a lot more, too. Players with family members that are in high-risk groups can opt out as well, but they will not receive service time or pay.
  • MLB may set up a couple rosters of free agents in Nashville. Stark has the details there, and to be honest I don’t really understand the logistics for this one.