Three weeks later than Major League Baseball had hoped, the 2020 season will finally get underway on July 23 and 24.
And with it, the Orioles are about to enter the age of “speed baseball.” Instead of 162 games, they’ll play 60 in the 2020 season.
How unusual is that? Let’s look back 10 years when, in 2010, the Orioles employed three managers — Dave Trembley, Juan Samuel and Buck Showalter. Each of managed roughly a third of the season, but none managed 60 games.
Last year, the Orioles were 19-41 after 60 games, but in this rushed season, nothing will compare with last season.
The Orioles will play just nine opponents in the 60 games, the four in the AL East and five in the National League East. A year ago, through 60 games, they faced 12 different opponents.
There will be some added wrinkles. Extra innings will begin with a runner on second base in an effort to prevent excessively long games.
In the first 60 games of last season, the Orioles played just two extra-inning games, but perhaps the most memorable of 2020 came on July 25 when a desperate manager Brandon Hyde resorted to using Stevie Wilkerson to save a game against the Los Angeles Angels in the 16th inning.
Games would be less likely require multiple extra innings with this rule, which has been used in recent years in the minor leagues.
When the season begins, 30 players will be on the active roster. After 15 days, there will be 28. Two weeks later, the roster drops to 26.
Three taxi squad players, which includes a catcher, can accompany teams on road trips.
The trading deadline moves from July 31 to August 31, and the deadline for teams to add players from outside the organization and have them eligible for the postseason is September 15.
A freeze on transactions, which has been in place since shortly after play was halted on March 12 because of Covid-19, will be lifted on Friday.
The report date for spring training is July 1. All players will be tested for the coronavirus, and camp will begin on July 3.
Small-group workouts will precede larger ones, and then there will be a few exhibition games. The Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals could be the opponents.
Three days before spring training, a list of 60 players eligible to be used in the major leagues must be submitted. That would include players on the 40-man roster and additional non-roster players.
Players not on the active roster will report to a site to be announced and could play in intrasquad games. The Orioles could use Aberdeen, Bowie or Frederick for these players.
Position players and pitchers will have to stay on the injured list for a minimum of 10 days. In lieu of a 60-day injured list, there will be a 45-day one.
Any player testing positive for COVID-19 will be placed on a separate list.
With just 60 games, will the Orioles try to script their pitching? Perhaps they will decide ahead of time if they want to give Keegan Akin or Bruce Zimmermann a certain number of starts later in the season.
It’s impossible to plan a 162-game season because so much happens. But with one barely a third as long, maybe there’s some merit in having a plan that gives the Orioles’ young pitchers and position players a number of looks.
Hyde and general manager Mike Elias will need to be flexible. Outfielder Yusniel Diaz and infielder/outfielder Ryan Mountcastle have yet to make their major league debuts. Hyde and Elias won’t telegraph their plans, but it would seem easier to do so with a schedule that’s just over two months.
Next winter’s free-agent market is likely to be a quiet one. With teams losing money this year, it’s unlikely there will be big contracts, and many players are likely to be non-tendered.
The Orioles might need to find a trading partner for reliever Mychal Givens, who will be a free agent after the 2021 season.
It will be a season of no lineup card exchanges, no arguing with umpires from closer than six feet, no spitting and no fighting.
How will players react to the lack of atmosphere at the ballpark? Players feed off even sparse crowds, and they might find it rough to play in an emotionless ballpark night after night.
Soon, there will be a real schedule to be scrutinized and opponents to be analyzed. The Orioles will play 40 games against the AL East and 20 against the NL East. The DH will be used in all games.
The conditions surrounding the game will be most different, and probably not much fun.
However, as then-commissioner Bud Selig said after the strike of 1995 came to an abrupt end: “The players are back. The game is back, and we are very happy about that.”