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Athletics FAQ: Details on the upcoming season

@MartinJGallegos
June 30, 2020

OAKLAND -- Major League Baseball is officially back, as plans were announced for a modified 60-game regular season that will begin July 23-24. The shortened season, due to the coronavirus pandemic that halted the game for more than three months, puts the A’s in a unique position. With a history

OAKLAND -- Major League Baseball is officially back, as plans were announced for a modified 60-game regular season that will begin July 23-24.

The shortened season, due to the coronavirus pandemic that halted the game for more than three months, puts the A’s in a unique position. With a history of being a second-half team after getting off to slow starts, they can ill afford a poor early stretch under this 60-game format.

Play Ball: MLB announces 2020 regular season

The strong second halves of Oakland’s past have often been the result of the club making key additions, either through trade or from within its own farm system. Those vital additions this year could be seen in the form of top three prospects Jesús Luzardo, Sean Murphy and A.J. Puk, all of whom are expected to begin the regular season with the A’s.

A's Top 30 Prospects

The arrivals of Luzardo and Puk on a full-time basis after brief, but impressive, 2019 stints in the Majors become more intriguing given the shortened schedule. While both were expected to be on an innings limit under the original allotment of games, the A’s should now be able to roll both left-handers out to the mound every fifth day without the worry of having to monitor their workload. They’ll help shore up a rotation which also features promising arms Frankie Montas and Sean Manaea, as well as the veteran of the group in Mike Fiers, who is coming off a career year.

Between the talented rotation and strong core of position players led by Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Marcus Semien, Khris Davis and Ramón Laureano that helped the club reach 97 wins in 2019, the A’s are loaded entering a 2020 campaign that they feel will see them get over the hump and surpass the heartbreak of losing the American Wild Card Game the past two years.

The A’s got off to a 30-30 start through their first 60 games of 2019 -- with their best 60-game stretch of the year coming from June 11-Aug. 22, during which they posted a 41-19 mark that eventually helped them secure the top AL Wild Card spot in September.

When will camp start, and where?
The A’s will report to Oakland for a summer version of Spring Training that is expected to take place at the Oakland Coliseum on July 1, though A’s general manager David Forst said the club is targeting July 3 or 4 for the first day of actual baseball activity. The A’s will have a total of 60 players at their disposal, with the plan of keeping between 40-42 players in Oakland and housing the remaining players at an alternate site -- likely in Stockton, Calif., at the facility of their Class A Advanced Minor League affiliate club, the Stockton Ports.

When is Opening Day?
MLB anticipates Opening Day occurring on July 23-24, per its official release. The official schedule will need to be approved by players -- expected in the next week or so -- before being released. So, for now, we don’t know if the A’s will start at home or on the road, or who their opponent will be for the opening series. All clubs are allowed a maximum of three practice games, subject to approval by MLB, prior to the start of the regular season. Forst mentioned the Giants as a likely exhibition opponent due to their proximity, though he said the two sides have not had discussions about the possibility yet.

Which teams will be on the schedule?
The A’s schedule will be limited solely to teams in the AL West (Angels, Astros, Mariners and Rangers) and National League West (D-backs, Dodgers, Giants, Padres and Rockies) for the entirety of the 60-game regular season. The expectation is that the A’s will play 40 games against divisional opponents and 20 Interleague games. All games will feature a designated hitter, as MLB is instituting a universal DH as part of the health and safety protocols being put in place for the 2020 season.

FAQ: All you need to know about 2020 season

How are the A’s injured players doing?
Puk (shoulder strain), Stephen Piscotty (rib cage issue) and Daniel Mengden (elbow surgery) are all fully recovered from injuries that sidelined them during Spring Training and expected to be ready for the start of camp. Puk is expected to move into the starting rotation after a 2019 cameo out of the bullpen, while Piscotty and Mengden are in the mix for spots in the outfield and bullpen.

What are some competitions to watch when camp resumes?
The battle for backup catcher that appeared to be at a standstill in March will pick right back up as Austin Allen and Jonah Heim both look to separate themselves. Allen, acquired by the A's from the Padres in exchange for Jurickson Profar this offseason, was the favorite to start the season as the backup to Murphy -- and he displayed a strong bat this spring, when he hit .406 in 15 games. But Heim, the A’s No. 11 prospect, showed that his bat seems to have caught up to what was already considered strong defense behind the plate, batting .320 with two doubles over 12 spring games.

Second base is the one starting position that remains vacant, with Tony Kemp, Franklin Barreto and Vimael Machin all in the running. Jorge Mateo was an option before he was traded to the Padres on Tuesday. The feeling entering Spring Training was that Barreto and Kemp had the inside track on beginning the regular season as a left-right platoon solution to the A’s second-base hole, and neither did anything to sway that expectation.

Machin would provide value in his own way and is likely to begin the season in Oakland with rosters initially expanded to 30 players. Machin may not be flashy, but he has impressed manager Bob Melvin with his approach at the plate. Another plus for Machin has been his ability to play all four infield positions, looking comfortable at each.

How will rosters be different? How will those changes affect my team?
Teams will start with 30-man active rosters on Opening Day. That number will reduce to 28 after two weeks and then 26 on Day 29 of the season. Once back to 26 players, teams will be allowed to add a 27th player for doubleheaders.

For all road trips, clubs will be allowed three extra players on the “taxi squad,” which is essentially a group of reserve players who can work out with the team. Any catcher in that group can also be utilized as a bullpen catcher.

The expanded rosters benefit players who were on the bubble such as Machin. As Spring Training was nearing an end, the A’s could have ultimately lost him since he was a Rule 5 Draft pick, and he would have needed to be returned to the Cubs were he not to make the Opening Day roster.

The regular injured list will be for 10 days in 2020 for both position players and pitchers, as in 2019. MLB is also instituting a special COVID-19-related injured list for players who test positive, have confirmed exposure or are exhibiting symptoms. There would not be a minimum or maximum number of days players can spend on this list; any player who tests positive will not be allowed to return until he tests negative twice.

Players optioned or outrighted off the roster must remain that way for a minimum of 10 days before they can be recalled.

In order to space out players at the Coliseum, the A’s plan to utilize the former football locker rooms of the Oakland Raiders in addition to their own clubhouse.

How can I watch the games?
Athletics games will be broadcast on NBC Sports California, and fans can stream out-of-market A's games LIVE on MLB.TV on your favorite supported devices.

How can I listen?
All radio broadcasts are available on A’s Cast, the club’s 24/7 audio streaming station on TuneIn. Fans can also listen to every A's game LIVE online or on the go with MLB Audio.

Martin Gallegos covers the A's for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MartinJGallegos.