SAN FRANCISCO — When Major League Baseball released the 2020 schedule last August, the Giants learned they would open the season against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
A series between the rivals is still in the plans, but Opening Day is now slated to take place nearly four months after the coronavirus pandemic put sports on hold.
With fewer than three weeks until the new July 23 start date, there remains significant doubt as to whether Major League Baseball can safely push forward with plans to hold an abbreviated 60-game season.
The league released a new, tentative schedule Monday that calls for the Giants to play 40 games against National League West opponents and the remaining 20 games against American League West foes.
San Francisco will open with a four-game set against the Dodgers and play all 10 of their matchups against Los Angeles within the first 32 games of the season. The season-opener slated for July 23 will be broadcast on ESPN and is one of only two games scheduled that day, following a matchup between the Yankees and Nationals.
“I think we’re all kind of still digesting the schedule, talking about it, the one thing that I can say is, we’ve simulated games for several months against all of the teams on our schedule and so nothing is coming as a surprise,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We expected that the schedule is going to be tough.”
Despite increasing concerns about player safety and COVID-19 testing issues that forced teams such as the Athletics, Nationals and Astros to postpone workouts on Monday, the league moved ahead with plans to release a full schedule.
Here’s the #SFGiants schedule. pic.twitter.com/QbMZZtI3cb
— Kerry Crowley (@KO_Crowley) July 6, 2020
In a statement issued Monday, MLB commended clubs that “responded properly” by canceling workouts following delays in teams receiving coronavirus test results over the July 4 holiday weekend.
“Our plan required extensive delivery and shipping services, including proactive special accommodations to account for the holiday weekend,” the league said. “The vast majority of those deliveries occurred without incident and allowed the protocols to function as planned. Unfortunately, several situations included unforeseen delays. We have addressed the delays caused by the holiday weekend and do not expect a recurrence.”
As part of MLB’s plan to resume operations, all players and coaches are expected to be tested every other day and results are supposed to be known within 24-to-48 hours. On Monday, many players around the league said they had been tested a second time for COVID-19 without receiving the results of their first test.
Several prominent players around the league expressed criticism for the way MLB handled the testing process including Cubs star Kris Bryant, who told reporters in Chicago the league has a “big hill to climb” to alleviate concerns.
“I wanted to play this year because I thought it would be safe and I would be comfortable,” Bryant said. “Honestly, I don’t really feel that way.”
Giants catcher Buster Posey is among the players who have voiced concerns over MLB’s protocols and hasn’t ruled out the possibility of opting out of the season.
“I’ve thought about it and talked about it with my wife, quite a bit,” Posey said Saturday. “I think there’s still some reservation on my end. I think I want to see how things progress here over the next couple of weeks.”
Giants starter Johnny Cueto said Monday he’s not among those still considering opting out, but he didn’t suggest he feels completely safe.
“I’m scared for my family like everyone else is, but I’m already here,” Cueto said through Spanish-language interpreter Erwin Higueros. “I made a commitment. I flew in from the Dominican, which is pretty far away. I’m here, I’m going to stay here, I’m going to give it my all.”
If the Major League Baseball season does end up taking place, the Giants have a rigorous first half schedule that calls for them to play 18 of their first 32 games against 2019 playoff teams. If the Giants are able to stay within striking distance of a playoff berth during the first half, the schedule should lighten up during September as 16 of their final 23 games come against teams that finished with sub-.500 records last year.
The middle portion of the Giants’ schedule features 10 games, including seven at home, against the Arizona Diamondbacks and three-time World Series champion Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner could pitch at Oracle Park in the first series between the teams from August 21-23, but will also have another opportunity to face the Giants in San Francisco when the D’backs return for a four-game set from September 4-7.
The Giants’ original schedule included interleague matchups against American League Central teams, but MLB opted to make significant changes to the schedule with the goal of reducing travel. The new schedule will send the Giants on the road for interleague series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Houston Astros, the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland A’s.
The Giants will also host the Texas Rangers during the team’s first homestand, but San Francisco will not travel to Globe Life Park in Arlington, a new ballpark opening this summer.
The Giants will end the season with a seven-game homestand that includes four games against the Colorado Rockies and three against the Padres.
“The end of the schedule is nice to have some home games in a stretch,” Kapler said. “We finish off at home and I think out of our last 15 days, maybe fewer, we have three off days. That’s always advantageous. It’s a tough schedule and I definitely don’t want to discount that.”
Giants reveal two more positive tests
The Giants announced Monday that “two more individuals” have tested positive for COVID-19 following mandatory club testing.
The team did not specify whether the individuals who tested positive for the novel coronavirus were players, coaches or other members of the organization who are subjected to regular testing. The Giants said the individuals have been placed in self-isolation and will remain there until MLB protocols for discontinuing isolation have been satisfied.
Giants pitcher Luís Madero is the only member of the team’s player pool known to have tested during the intake process. 2019 first round draft choice Hunter Bishop was expected to be included in the Giants’ player pool, but Bishop tested positive for COVID-19 in Arizona and must test negative twice in a 48-hour span before he can be added to the pool.