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Giants 2020 MLB season restart: Teams, format, schedule location, odds

Giants 2020 MLB season restart: Teams, format, schedule location, odds

At 7:08 p.m. on July 23, a Giant will dig into the box -- likely the right-handed box, given Gabe Kapler's likelihood to use platoons -- and stare out at Clayton Kershaw. For a moment, the summer will seem normal.

It's not at all normal, of course. That game will be played without fans, with managers wearing masks, and with players socially distancing themselves in the empty stands. But here in 2020, that's the closest we can get to baseball, and MLB is making a real effort to return for a 60-game season. 

Here's a look at what you can expect during the 2020 Giants season, which will be televised on NBC Sports Bay Area and streamed on the MyTeams app (click here to download!).

When does the MLB season resume?

If you're going to come back in late July, come back in style, and that's what baseball is doing. The first game of the short season is Yankees-Nationals, followed by Giants-Dodgers as the nightcap. That's Max Scherzer vs. Gerrit Cole and then Johnny Cueto vs. Kershaw. If MLB wanted to make a statement with the first night back, that's a hell of a way to do it. 

The other 26 teams return July 24, which is nearly four full months later than the original start date. MLB shut down spring training operations March 12 and the league and MLB Players Association had a long battle to try and figure out a way to return. It was nasty, and ultimately the commissioner imposed a 60-game season. Here's what that looks like for the Giants:

The Giants will play all of their home games and do all of their training at Oracle Park, which has been upgraded quite a bit.

Is there a new format?

Aside from this being the shortest season in MLB history? Yes, there are some other quirks. Scheduling was changed to limit travel and extra innings will now start with a runner on second to try and speed games up and make sure players aren't at the ballpark too late into the night. 

Social distancing rules are in effect, although there's only so much guys like the catchers and first baseman Brandon Belt can do. 

The biggest change is the universal DH, which was likely to go into the rulebook in the next CBA anyway. Goodbye, Madison Bumgarner hitting dingers. The Giants won't have a set DH. They plan to use several veterans, including Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval, and likely newcomer Darin Ruf. 

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What does the playoff race look like?

It's an Even Year, my friends! 

Alright, alright, the Giants are still not anywhere close to favored, but a 60-game season is a sprint, and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has talked repeatedly of how it puts the Giants in a much more competitive position. He recently mentioned a conversation on a call with team employees. 

"Somebody made the point that, 'Hey, we were 19-6 in July. We were the best team in baseball in July,'" Zaidi said. "That's like half the season now."

With a hot start, any team can enter September with a shot at the postseason. This is especially brutal for the original favorites -- the 2019 Nationals started 19-31 before rebounding and winning it all. 

Talent should still win out in most cases, and the Dodgers are a clear favorite in that respect. The Diamondbacks and Padres are generally thought of to be on their heels in the division. The entire NL Central looks up for grabs outside of the Pirates. In the NL East, the Nationals and Braves are favorites, with the Phillies and Mets also potentially in the mix for a division title over 60 games. 

Much of this, quite frankly, could be decided by the coronavirus. More than a half-dozen established big leaguers, including Buster Posey, already have opted out and more are on the way. The Giants had to shut their camp down for a night just four days in.

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The 2020 MLB schedule

It's just 60 games, with 40 against your division and 20 against the corresponding division in the other league. Six of those 20 interleague games are "rivalry" games, which for the Giants means 10 percent of their season comes against the A's. 

The regular season ends Sept. 27. After that, the hope is for a normal postseason. 

Odds to win the 2020 World Series

The Giants are, uhh, not exactly favored. In some places they opened at +25000, meaning you can bet $100 to win $25,000. Sounds great, until you realize that you'll almost certainly just lose that $100. 

The Dodgers and Yankees are the heavy favorites at +350, but it's no fun to pick the favorite, especially if you're a Giants fan in this case. It's a 60-game season and anything can happen, so why not take a risk? From here, the Rays (+1800), Reds (+2000), A's (+2000) and Angels (+2200) look like solid options if you want a good roster that could get hot and win it all in a shortened season. 

In terms of long shots, the Diamondbacks are intriguing. They're +5000 and have a really well-balanced team, with enough pitching depth to make them a real problem for the Dodgers in the NL West. If they get into the postseason, they'll line up behind Bumgarner, who knows a thing or three about October. 

Giants' Austin Slater has flexor strain, could be in lineup by weekend

Giants' Austin Slater has flexor strain, could be in lineup by weekend

The Giants got relatively good news from the tests taken on a young player who might be having a breakout season. 

Austin Slater has a right flexor strain that kept him out of the lineup for a second straight game, but manager Gabe Kapler said it's possible Slater will be able to DH sometime this weekend against the A's. 

Slater felt pain during Tuesday's game in Houston and had to sit Wednesday. He was able to take swings Friday and Kapler said that went well. 

"A flexor strain for a position player is less daunting, perhaps, than for a pitcher, because outfielders can monitor how often and how hard they throw," Kapler said. "They may have one or two throws an entire game. I think there are ways to allow flexors to come around for outfielders that you just couldn't do for pitchers."

Slater had an elbow sprain in 2018 but it happened the last week of the season, so there was no need for a timetable. The injury this time is poorly timed, as he has been one of the hotter hitters in the league, slugging three homers on the road trip and compiling numbers that are up there with Mike Yastrzemski and Donovan Solano, the two early-season stars for the Giants. Slater has a .444 on-base percentage and is slugging .632, and he's tied for the MLB lead with five stolen bases. 

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The Giants released a few other injury updates Friday. Sam Coonrod (lat strain) threw a 30-pitch bullpen session, which should put him pretty close to a return. Drew Smyly (finger sprain) is throwing on flat ground and will be re-examined this weekend. Jeff Samardzija (shoulder inflammation) is rehabbing San Francisco but has not been cleared to throw. Reyes Moronta (shoulder surgery) is throwing bullpen sessions at the alternate site in Sacramento. 

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Giants plan to add player names to back of home jerseys in 2021 season

Giants plan to add player names to back of home jerseys in 2021 season

The Giants can simultaneously be the most recognizable and the most anonymous team in the National League. 

If he wanted to, manager Gabe Kapler could send out a lineup that would have been normal way back in 2012: Brandon Belt at first, Brandon Crawford at short, Pablo Sandoval at third, and Hunter Pence in the outfield. Back in spring training, those four shared a clubhouse with Buster Posey, too. 

At the same time, the Giants often start groups that look more like the half of a split-squad that's headed out to Glendale for the late game of a spring training doubleheader. They used 64 players last year, a National League record, and a lot of them weren't even in town long enough for fans to learn their first name. 

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In a nod to that latter issue, the organization will make a significant change to the home jerseys next season. Team president and CEO Larry Baer told the San Francisco Chronicle's Bruce Jenkins that the organization decided earlier this summer to put player names on the backs of home jerseys.

"Part of it is the substantial roster turnover we've had, but it's also about the way people consume games now," Baer said. "You'd like to believe everybody's sitting down in front of the TV for three hours of Kruk & Kuip, but between social media, Twitter, highlights availability, a lot of people tune in for 20 minutes and then go do something else. The game's on the screen, but they aren't necessarily paying attention. If they're a casual fan, they don't want to have to figure out if that's Alex Dickerson or Mike Yastrzemski."

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Teams are not allowed to change their jerseys during the season, so the new look won't go into effect until 2021. The current one is an homage to the team that arrived from San Francisco in 1958 and was a favorite of former owner Peter Magowan. 

It made more sense earlier this decade, but roster turnover has become a big part of the weekly routine at Oracle Park under new president Farhan Zaidi. There were a lot of misses, but that helped the Giants find Dickerson and Yastrzemski, two players who are key parts of this year's lineup and will have their long last names on their backs by this time next year.