Giants

Giants' tentative 2021 MLB schedule includes odd Opening Day quirk

Giants' tentative 2021 MLB schedule includes odd Opening Day quirk

Have you fully digested the 2020 MLB schedule that was released on Monday? Good, because here comes the 2021 schedule! 

MLB released full schedules for next season, and the Giants once again open on the road, but this time in unfamiliar territory. For the first time in club history, the Giants will begin the season in an interleague park with a series in Seattle starting April 1. The Giants play their home opener April 9 against the Rockies. Here's the full schedule:

This will be the 12th consecutive season that the Giants open on the road, something they generally ask for so that they can finish the season at home and have more dates at Oracle Park when kids are out of school over the summer. They will begin the 2020 season in Los Angeles in two weeks (maybe).

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The 2020 season kept teams in their own region as much as possible, which means that the Giants will play the AL West two consecutive years. They were supposed to play the AL Central this season. The Giants will visit the Texas Rangers' new park next June and also have road series in Anaheim and Oakland, in addition to that opener in Seattle. The schedule includes the usual slate of trips to New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, etc., so MLB is at least planning for the likelihood that society and travel are a bit more back to normal next year. 

If fans are allowed back into Oracle Park, there are a few series that stand out. 

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Mike Trout and the Angels visit May 31, Madison Bumgarner's Diamondbacks come for the first time on June 14, and the Houston Astros visit July 31 if you have a lot of pent-up booing you would like to do at some point in 2021. 

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.