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AP file photo by Curtis Compton / Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr., center, and the Atlanta Braves are about to start getting ready for a 60-game schedule as Major League Baseball tries to play its 2020 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

NEW YORK — So, where were we?

Mid-March, a spring training exhibition game between the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida. Even before the final out, both teams had received the official word: Major League Baseball was shutting down immediately because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"It felt like the most meaningless baseball game in the history of the sport," Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter said.

So now they'll try again.

A skewed, 60-game schedule — rather than the usual full plate of 162 per team — with opening day on July 23 or 24. A shortened, contorted season ordered by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on Tuesday night after billionaire owners and multimillion-dollar players couldn't come to a new economic agreement against the backdrop of the virus outbreak.

"What happens when we all get it?" Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Brett Anderson wrote this week on Twitter.

From the start, a sprint to the finish. No choice but to come out strong. Remember last year: The Washington Nationals began 27-33 and wound up hoisting the World Series trophy.

Perhaps it's the perfect setup for outsiders such as the San Diego Padres or the Seattle Mariners to sneak into the championship chase.

Let's not forget those Houston Astros, either. They were the biggest story in baseball when we last saw them, with fans taunting José Altuve, Alex Bregman and their accomplices after the trash can-banging, sign-stealing scandal that made national headlines over the winter.

Some things, chances are, won't change when the games resume.

No minor leagues this year — tough luck there for prospects missing a year of on-field development and teams such as the Southern League's Chattanooga Lookouts, the Class AA affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds and among the teams rumored to be in danger of contraction.

The majors, meanwhile, give new meaning to short-season ball.

Here's a look at what's on deck:

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AP photo by Julio Cortez / Washington Nationals designated hitter Howie Kendrick swings at a pitch from the Miami Marlins' Caleb Smith during the second inning of a spring training exhibition game on March 10 in Jupiter, Fla. Designated hitters will be used in National League games this season.

ODDBALLS

An automatic runner on second base to begin all extra innings. Designated hitters in all games — yes, even those involving two National League teams. Pitchers with their own personal rosin bags.

This season will look like no other in baseball history, the price for trying to play amid a pandemic.

"So long National League. It was fun while it lasted," Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright wrote on Twitter.

The extra-inning rule is bound to bring new strategy, different stats to dissect and an innovative twist on the old game. It'll be — aw, heck, who are we kidding? It will be Major League Baseball meets Central Park softball.

Here's hoping that experiment doesn't stick around in 2021.

 

MARKING THE MOMENT

To date, Bruce Maxwell is the only major leaguer to take a knee during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" before a game. The backup Oakland Athletics catcher did that a home game in September 2017, following the lead of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was with the San Francisco 49ers at the time.

Maxwell saw limited time with the A's in 2018, played in Mexico last year and doesn't have a job with a team in the majors right now.

Major leaguers have not, in general, been the first set of players in pro sports to speak out on issues of social injustice. We'll see what stances they take on and off the field when games return amid a climate different than when they left.

 

FLY IT HIGH!

OK, say Francisco Lindor helps the Cleveland Indians win a most elusive World Series title. Or Christian Yelich leads the Brewers to their first flag.

Fans will certainly argue: Is it a legitimate crown or more like a prize won during some European soccer tournament?

Kay Kenealy, a 59-year-old from Waukesha, Wisconsin, who has a 20-game ticket package to Brewers games, took a meaty swing at the debate.

"The season's the season. It's kind of like with the Bucks in the running for an NBA championship. A championship's a championship," she said. "If the season's a month long, you play for that month."

"Whether it be the Brewers or the A's or someone like that that wins the World Series, I don't think that requires an asterisk. I think everybody for the next 100 years is going to know that this was a pandemic year."

 

THE BIG FOUR-OH-OH

The huge stat question: Could someone hit .400 in this shortened season?

Reigning National League MVP Cody Bellinger got off to a scorching start last year, batting .376 after the Los Angeles Dodgers' 60th game. He finished at .305.

Atlanta Braves great Chipper Jones was the most recent major leaguer to top .400 through 60 games — he was at .409 in 2008. The Colorado Rockies' Larry Walker (.417) and the Padres' Tony Gwynn (.403) both started fast in 1997, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Fewer games, a lot of walks, a couple of infield knocks — yep, it's possible. But there's a reason Ted Williams remains the last player to hit the hallowed mark in a full season, with the Boston Red Sox legend batting .406 in 1941 (always splendid, he was at .407 after 60).

Also a fact: No one would treat the achievement this year on a par with Teddy Ballgame's.

 

A CAN OF CORN

Shucks! Might not be a game in the "Field of Dreams" cornfield this summer. MLB did a great job building a diamond next to the movie site near Dyersville, Iowa, to host the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees on Aug. 13, but fans can't come.

Also scrapped: Matchups in London, Mexico City and Puerto Rico. No official word yet on the All-Star Game, which was set for July 14 at Dodger Stadium.

 

OUCH

All-Star aces Chris Sale, Luis Severino and Noah Syndergaard are out while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.

But these extra months might've given Cole Hamels, Aaron Judge, Justin Verlander and others more time to fully recover. Who knows, maybe even Yoenis Céspedes has healed up.

And additional time off could have given the Los Angeles Angels Shohei Ohtani a cushion to build up his arm strength. Sure is neat having a player to track in the majors who is known as much for his hitting as his pitching.

 

WATCH THIS

So your family takes a road trip each summer, hitting a new ballpark every time. You want to extend your 11-year streak, but there aren't any tickets for sale. Don't fret, just get creative.

Oracle Park in San Francisco provides a tremendous opportunity, for free. Fans can gather behind the right-field wall, look through a fence and see the Giants. And if a home run sails out that way, it's fun to watch kayakers scramble for a Splash Shot souvenir.

The Roberto Clemente Bridge by PNC Park is a popular watching spot, the rooftops outside Wrigley Field are classic and a hotel in Toronto offers rooms with a terrific view of Blue Jays games from the outfield.

Hot dogs, however, are not included.

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