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MLB 60-game season: Start date, schedule, rule changes for baseball's return

MLB 60-game season: Start date, schedule, rule changes for baseball's return

It's actually happening, folks. Major League Baseball will have a 2020 season.

MLB and the MLB Players Association agreed Tuesday night on a 60-game season after months of contentious negotiations.

The shortened season includes multiple rule changes and rigorous safety protocols that teams must follow to limit the spread of COVID-19. But if all goes according to plan, the Boston Red Sox and MLB's other 29 teams will report to training camp on July 1 -- one week from Wednesday -- and begin regular-season games in late July.

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

So, what will this unprecedented season look like? Here's what baseball fans need to know about the 2020 campaign:

What's the deal with training camp?

Training camps for all teams begin July 1 and will last two weeks. Teams will host training camp in their own cities rather than traveling to Florida and Arizona, which have both seen recent spikes in COVID-19 cases. That means Red Sox players will be in Boston starting July 1 and play exhibition games at Fenway Park.

When does the season start? Any other key dates to know?

The regular season is set to begin July 23 and 24. The season is expected to run until Sept. 27, with the postseason beginning Sept. 29 and running until the end of October. The MLB trade deadline is scheduled for Aug. 31, per The Athletic's Jayson Stark.

What does the Red Sox' schedule look like?

The Red Sox will begin their 60-game season July 24 with a matchup against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park. Check out their full schedule below:

What's the postseason format?

MLB and the players' union had discussed expanding the postseason from 10 to 16 teams, but that's not happening. The playoff structure will remain the same in 2020: three division winners and two wild-card teams per league.

What rule changes will be implemented?

There are several rule changes coming to MLB in 2020, but the big ones are the first two:

-- The implementation of a universal designated hitter, meaning NL teams must use a DH in their lineups.

-- The extra innings rule: Each inning after the ninth will start with a runner on second base. That runner will be the batter in the lineup immediately preceding that inning's leadoff hitter.

-- Pitchers can use a "wet rag" to keep their fingers moist in lieu of licking their fingers.

-- The new "three-batter minimum" rule remains intact: each relief pitcher must face at least three batters.

What safety measures must players follow?

The short answer: a lot. Players are prohibited from making deliberate contact with any other player aside from making tags. That means no high fives, fist bumps and hugs. They're also banned from spitting of any kind and are "discouraged" from showering at the ballpark after games.

Oh, and don't expect to see any fights or tirades at umpires: Any player or manager who comes within six feet of an umpire or an opponent during a dispute will be ejected and could be fined or suspended.

How will COVID-19 testing work?

Testing will be implemented in three phases: prescreening, intake and regular monitoring, per The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich.

Players and staffers will be tested three or four days before arriving at camp (prescreening) then undergo a temperature check, a saliva or nose-swab test and a blood test for antibodies two days before reporting to camp (intake).

During the season, they'll have their temperature and symptoms checked twice per day (regular monitoring), while "Tier 1 individuals" (defined as everyone in uniform) will take saliva tests every other day.

What happens when someone tests positive?

Any player or staffer who tests positive or has a temperature above 100.4 degrees must self-isolate immediately. Those who test positive must have two subsequent negative tests at least 24 hours apart before being allowed to return.

Got all that? There's a lot more, and some details haven't even been worked out yet. But at least we'll have baseball this summer, after all.

Red Sox release Brian Johnson despite lack of pitching depth

Red Sox release Brian Johnson despite lack of pitching depth

Brian Johnson apparently isn't part of the Boston Red Sox' pitching plans in 2020.

The Red Sox have released the veteran left-hander, manager Ron Roenicke confirmed to reporters Monday. Roenicke suggested Johnson requested his release so he could see the field elsewhere.

"Johnson felt like he wanted an opportunity," Roenicke said, via's Chris Cotillo. "Sometimes you need to go other places to get that."

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App's Christopher Smith reported earlier in the day that Johnson left the team's alternate training site in Pawtucket to return home to Florida, and we now know why.

Johnson appeared to have a chance to crack the Red Sox' thin starting rotation before the 2020 season began. He was on Boston's 2019 Opening Day roster and made seven starts last season, posting a 6.02 ERA over 40.1 innings pitched.

The 29-year-old hasn't been called up to Boston's active roster this season, though, a sign the Red Sox don't view him as a viable option ahead of hurlers like Ryan Weber, Matt Hall, Chris Mazza, Zack Godley and Dylan Covey.

Johnson was a first-round draft pick of the Red Sox in 2012 and has spent his entire career in Boston's organization. He made his major league debut in 2015 and pitched in four different seasons for the Red Sox, compiling a 4.74 ERA over 171 innings pitched and winning a World Series with the club in 2018.

Watch Athletics' Ramon Laureano charge Astros dugout, start a brawl

Watch Athletics' Ramon Laureano charge Astros dugout, start a brawl

The Houston Astros were involved in another benches-clearing scene Sunday afternoon, this time with the Oakland Athletics.

The action started when Athletics outfielder Ramón Laureano was hit by a pitch in the seventh inning. Laureano was understandably upset after being hit. However, Laureano took his frustration too far when he started exchanging words with Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron and eventually charged Houston's dugout. 

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

Check out the crazy sequence in the video below: 

Laureano shouldn't be charging the dugout, but Cintron deserves a lot of the blame for what transpired. Coaches shouldn't be getting into heated exchanges with opposing players. 

Houston is not a well-liked team right now, and opponents have not been shy about voicing their opinions of the Astros and their players ever since Major League Baseball handed down unprecedented punishment to Houston in January for its sign-stealing operation that began in 2017.

Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Joe Kelly, who's in his second season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, was suspended eight games after almost hitting two Astros players in a July 28 game. The suspension sparked a passionate reaction from fans and players on social media, with most people quickly coming to Kelly's defense.

The Astros didn't receive any suspensions for what happened in that game against Kelly and the Dodgers. Houston probably won't be as fortunate this time -- Cintron definitely deserves a suspension for his actions.