For the last two decades, San Francisco Giants players have spent the month of July dodging seagulls, wrapped in fog and playing in front of thousands of adoring fans at Oracle Park.
In 2020, the seagulls will outnumber the fans, but if the Giants are hosting games at China Basin by the end of July, they’ll likely consider the month an incredible success.
If games that count in the standings take place within the next 30 days, it will mean Major League Baseball beat the odds and kept the vast majority of players and coaches healthy through what figures to be one of the most fascinating yet challenging months in the history of the sport.
The coronavirus pandemic has upended life as we know it, forcing sports leagues to collectively press the pause button. After nearly four months without structured practices and workouts, the Giants and 29 other MLB teams will report to their home stadiums this week in preparation for a season unlike anything anyone has ever seen.
What should you expect when the Giants arrive at Oracle Park this week? President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and manager Gabe Kapler met with reporters on a video conference Monday to provide all the details.
What will the workouts look like?
Players have already begun traveling to San Francisco, but the Giants’ first full-squad workout won’t take place until Friday, July 3, which is the first date MLB is permitting teams to practice.
The Giants released a 51-player pool Monday and Kapler said he’ll have those players work out in three separate waves throughout the day. That will continue as Opening Day (temporarily slated for July 23 or 24) approaches, but the Giants will also have opportunities to compete in larger groups on the field at Oracle Park and are also in the process of scheduling a few exhibition games against the Oakland A’s.
Kapler said the team will use the home and visitor clubhouses so players can socially distance and instead of meeting in rooms inside the stadium, players and coaches will hold meetings out on the field or in the stands.
The Giants have enough mounds for pitchers to throw off, but they needed more room for their infielders so they’re planning to add turf to the players’ parking lot beyond the left field fence for fielding work. They’ll also move an indoor weight room outside and station it in the same parking lot.
When details are finalized with the city of Sacramento, the Giants plan to send some members of the current 51-player pool to work out at the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats’ facilities. All players reporting to camp this week will begin the summer in San Francisco, but prospects such as Heliot Ramos and Marco Luciano will eventually find themselves among the Sacramento contingent.
Who got the invite?
Thirty-three members of the Giants’ 40-man roster and 18 non-roster invitees will form the current 51-player pool, which Zaidi said could expand as soon as this week.
The Giants told some members of the 40-man roster such as Chris Shaw and Jandel Gustave to continue to stay in shape at home for now, but Zaidi and Kapler indicated the team could reach its 60-player limit even before Opening Day.
Zaidi didn’t rule out the idea of adding free-agent players from outside the organization (think Yasiel Puig), but said “there are quite a few guys within the organization that are still under consideration,” for spots.
Twenty-five members of the current pool are pitchers, 12 are infielders, 10 are outfielders and four are catchers. Top prospect Joey Bart is among the four catchers who received an invitation to the Giants’ workouts, but Zaidi and Kapler have indicated it’s unlikely he’ll break camp as a member of the 30-man Opening Day roster.
Who will they play?
Major League Baseball hasn’t finalized a schedule yet, but the expectation is the Giants will play 40 games against National League West opponents and 20 games against American League West opponents. The decision to scrap the initial interleague schedule was made to reduce travel and keep teams closer to their home cities. All teams are expected to play every club in their division 10 times while interleague play will provide for some variation. The Giants will likely play the A’s and another AL West opponent six times each and then will play four games against the remaining teams in the division.
Oakland A’s set to compete for spots
With the sun nearly set on any minor league season, Oakland’s camp will provide an alternate space for prospects and young players to get key reps. Budding starting pitching prospects Grant Holmes, Daulton Jefferies, James Kaprielian and Parker Dunsheewere expected to take strides this season with the triple-A Las Vegas Aviators.
It’s expected, per MLB.com and The Chronicle, that A’s first-round pick, 18-year-old Tyler Soderstrom and 17-year-old top INF prospect Robert Puason, are expected to receive camp invites for the summer. Expect to see outfielders Luis Barrera, Brayan Buelvas and reliever Wandisson Charles on the 60-man, too. Barrera is on the 40-man and should be headed to Oakland.
Who might make the initial 30-man roster? The A’s might not have to do too much whittling and adding, and position battles at second base and catcher obsessed over pre-pandemic in Mesa are practically moot, for now. The 32 of the 42 invited to Oakland are on the 40-man, and the rest will form a taxi squad of available players that can be shuttled in.