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Will there be fans at MLB games? What you need to know about 2020 season

Will there be fans at MLB games? What you need to know about 2020 season

Baseball is back. Three glorious words.

After months of unsuccessful negotiating with the players' association, MLB has imposed a 2020 season and the two sides have agreed on health and safety protocols. 

The new season will not, however, include a few of the rule changes you may have recently read about.

Here are all the details you need to know about baseball's shortened upcoming season. 

When does the MLB regular season start?

Opening day will be July 23 or 24. MLB will attempt to cram 60 games into about 66 days. Players report to camp on July 1 for Spring Training II.

How many games?

It will be a 60-game regular season. The league had proposed as few as 50 games and the players' association had proposed as many as 114. In the end, 60 was the number the league chose when it unilaterally implemented the 2020 season.

Given MLB's new coronavirus cases, the league's desire to play the postseason in October, and the length these negotiations took, a regular season much longer than 60 games was no longer feasible. But the players still rejected the league's 60-game proposal for a few important reasons.

Where is the Phillies' schedule?

It is not out yet, but the Phils' schedule will include heavy doses of the NL East and AL East. That is not good for the Phillies. Teams will stay in their geographic regions to limit travel.

Will fans be allowed at MLB games? Where will games be played?

While games will be played in home ballparks, fans will not be permitted in the stands for the 2020 MLB season. The Phillies' entire schedule will be televised on NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBC Sports Philadelphia+, and NBC10, aside from exclusive national games.

What's the deal with Spring Training II?

For the Phillies, it will take place in Philadelphia at Citizens Bank Park and in Lehigh Valley at the complex of their Triple A affiliate IronPigs. Players will report by July 1. There will be a three-week period for intrasquad games and baseball activities. Pitchers need to rebuild stamina and hitters need to find their timing against live pitching.

What about the MLB playoff format?

The playoffs will not expand from 10 teams to 16 for the 2020 season. The expanded playoff field was a piece of previous proposals but is not part of the 2020 season the league is implementing.

This means the playoff field will remain the same as it did in 2019 — three division-winners and two wild-cards per league.

How much will players get paid?

Players will get their full prorated salaries for the 60-game regular season. A 60-game season is 37% of a normal 162-game season. A player making just over $25 million per year like Bryce Harper would make about $9.4 million. A player making $10 million like J.T. Realmuto would make $3.7 million.

Remember, too, that the league advanced the players $170 million as part of the March 26 agreement. It means that some players have already been paid the bulk of what they will be paid in 2020. Here is a breakdown of how that $170 million was distributed.

How large will expanded rosters be?

Rosters will expand to 30 active players to begin the season. That number drops to 28 after two weeks and to 26 after four weeks, according to Jayson Stark.

More players will be available via the taxi squad. Key Phillies minor-leaguers like Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm are expected to be with the big-league team. Without a minor-league season, young prospects will need somewhere to develop.

And the DH?

The designated hitter will be universal in 2020 as an added protective measure to help prevent pitcher injury. But the DH will not be universal in 2021, the final year of the current collective bargaining agreement. Beyond that CBA, we could see the DH stick for good.

Any other quirks?

An August 31 trade deadline. Runners placed on second base in extra innings to prevent marathon games. Probably some others, too. Keep checking back.

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Will Phillies be without four key players on opening day?

Will Phillies be without four key players on opening day?

The specter of COVID-19 will hang over the entire 60-game Major League Baseball season that is set to begin in three weeks.

Heck, it’s already hanging over Phillies training camp.

The Phils will officially begin their three-week training period on Friday. They will utilize Citizens Bank Park and the fields across the street at FDR Park.

The Phils have set a 54-man roster for camp — it can grow to 60 — but at least four players will not be there. Second baseman Scott Kingery and pitchers Hector Neris, Ranger Suarez and Tommy Hunter have all been placed on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Tuesday, and won’t be eligible to return until late next week at the earliest.

No reason or particular injury was given for placing any of the four players on the IL — baseball-related injuries are usually disclosed — and that is essentially confirmation that the four are dealing with something related to COVID-19 — either a positive test, symptoms of the virus or possibly human contact with someone who has already been infected.

“What I can tell you is they're on the injured list, and that's about all I can tell you,” manager Joe Girardi said on Thursday afternoon. “MLB has given protocols on how to handle it.”

For reasons of medical privacy, teams are forbidden to talk specifically about COVID-19 cases.

But Girardi was able to answer baseball-related questions about the players in question. Of particular pertinence: Will these four players be ready for the July 23 or 24 season opener?

“I don't have a timetable on those players,” Girardi said. “I can't really answer that question. As soon as I get an answer, I will give it to you.”

So, it’s at least a possibility that one or more of these players won’t be ready for the opener?

“I think you have to look at all possibilities,” Girardi said.

Further indication that Kingery, Suarez, Neris and Hunter are dealing with something related to COVID-19: Girardi said no player has reported to camp with any new injuries. Relievers Seranthony Dominguez and David Robertson are both on the 60-day injured list with stated elbow injuries. Robertson had Tommy John surgery in August and is iffy for a return this season; Dominguez will have Tommy John surgery in the coming days. His elbow injury, suffered in June 2019, will end up impacting three seasons.

It’s very possible that Kingery, Neris, Suarez and Hunter are, at this moment, completely healthy. However, a player on the COVID-19 IL must test negative twice and pass a medical review before he can return to the group. That could take some time and possibly prevent the players from getting enough practice reps in camp to be deemed ready for opening day.

The possibility of not having Kingery, Neris, Suarez and Hunter at the start of the season is not insignificant.

Kingery is the team’s starting second baseman.

Neris is the team’s closer.

Hunter is an experienced setup man who takes the ball.

Suarez was a late-season find in the bullpen last year and a candidate for the fifth starter’s job back in March.

With an expanded roster, the Phillies could plug second base a number of ways if Kingery is not ready for the opener. Jean Segura could play there and rookie Alec Bohm could get a look at third — if the Phillies wanted to start his service time clock on Day 1. Holding him back a week would garner the Phillies an extra year of control before Bohm would become a free agent. 

The Phils also have a bunch of other players in camp (Neil Walker, Josh Harrison, Phil Gosselin, Logan Forsythe) who can play second.

The bullpen would take a hit without three projected contributors, particularly Neris, but the Phils do have 29 other pitchers in camp so there will be choices. In a 60-game season, every game is vital, every win and loss magnified and multiplied. It’s not necessarily the time to start experimenting, but if Girardi were open to doing so … might it be worth seeing what Vince Velasquez looks like as a closer if Neris misses time?

Time will tell how long Kingery, Neris, Suarez and Hunter will be out.

And don’t think there won’t be more players showing up with mysterious, unexplained trips to the injured list.

COVID-19 will hang over this entire season.

It's already affecting Phillies training camp.

"Do I think there will be players who get COVID-19? Absolutely," Girardi said. "I think with the protocols MLB has with the testing of players, the protocols before you come to the ballpark, and the protocols you do while you're at the ballpark, the contact tracing that we do, I think we will have cases. Hopefully, they will be really containable and we can pull this off.

"For me, it comes down to really how socially responsible we are as an industry, as a state, and as a country. I think we can do it."

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Phillies place four players on injured list for unspecified reasons

Phillies place four players on injured list for unspecified reasons

According to the transactions list on the Phillies' official website, the team has placed four players on the 10-day injured list. 

The players are Scott Kingery, Ranger Suarez, Tommy Hunter and Hector Neris.

The moves come as the team is about to officially open a three-week training period Friday in preparation of a shortened 60-game season.

No official reason was offered for the placements on the injured list and there have been no reports of any of the four players suffering an injury during pre-camp workouts. It is possible that one or all of the players is on the new COVID-19 injury list. Major League Baseball is not required to identify a reason for players going on the injured list if it is indeed for COVID-19.

Being placed on the COVID-19 IL does not necessarily mean that a player has tested positive for the virus. A player can be placed on that list for showing symptoms of having the virus or for coming in contact with someone who has the virus.

A player must test negative twice before he can be reinstated to the roster.

All four of the assignments to the IL have been backdated to June 30, meaning the players will be eligible to return a week from Friday. That would give all four two weeks to get ready for the season opener.

Kingery projects as the Phillies' starting second baseman. Neris is the team’s closer. Hunter and Suarez are relievers, though Suarez had been a candidate for the fifth starter’s job when camp shut down in March.

Hunter, Suarez and Neris had all been working out in recent weeks at the Phillies’ spring training facility in Clearwater, where there was a recent outbreak of COVID-19.

More information could become available when manager Joe Girardi speaks with reporters on Thursday afternoon.

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