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.
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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?
MLB has submitted a 60-game schedule to the MLBPA for review, so nothing is finalized yet. But the plan is for teams to play all of their games against division opponents and clubs in the opposite league's corresponding geographic division.
That means the Red Sox will play most of their games against the American League East (New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles) and the rest of their games against the National League East (Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets and Miami Marlins).
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.
MLB 60-game season: Start date, schedule, rule changes for baseball's return originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston