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Three takeaways from the 2020 Orioles schedule, on paper the toughest in the major leagues

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde didn't comment on whether any member of the team has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Orioles on Monday revealed their schedule for the shortened 2020 season, adding dates and sites to accommodate the known list of opponents and giving some clarity on what they’ll be up against come July 24.

What was always clear, and the schedule itself didn’t need to clarify, was that the Orioles’ schedule is going to be tough to navigate.

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Based on projections for how teams will fare in 2020, it’s the hardest in the major leagues, and that will be a challenge to a rebuilding team like the Orioles.

Still, there’s nuance to even the crammed 60 games in 66 days. Here are three takeaways from the schedule released Monday.

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It could be a fun first week

With, officially, 28 of their 60 games against last year’s playoff teams and 17 more against clubs that hope to attain that status this year in the Boston Red Sox, the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets, there weren’t going to be many soft spots in the Orioles’ schedule no matter how it was laid out.

It just so happens that there might be one early. No one really knows how good Boston might be this year, and opening the season against the Red Sox for three games at an empty Fenway Park — where the Orioles haven’t played horribly even as their fortunes turned — followed by home-and-home two-game series against the Miami Marlins makes for one of the lightest stretches the Orioles have.

A winning first week might be fool’s gold — see 2019 — but it also might be the high-water mark of the season. After those seven games, the Orioles face a stretch of 15 straight games against the Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, Washington Nationals, Philadelphia Phillies and Nationals again as the calendar turns to August.

The start of September is rough

Familiarity breeds contempt in baseball, and September’s schedule may bring that about for the Orioles. For the first two weeks of the month, they play only the Mets and Yankees. First, it’s a week at home. Then, it’s going to be a long week in a New York hotel facing them on the road.

That would be a trip the players and coaches would circle on the calendar and likely bring family members along on in past years. This time around, most of the city’s attractions will be off-limits to the Orioles and they’ll essentially be confined to the ballpark and their hotel while in New York.

The baseball part might bring some ill will as well, especially if the Yankees and Mets are playing up to expectations and using the Orioles to bolster their playoff pushes in the season’s final month.

Any date with the Yankees a year ago certainly wasn’t a pleasant one. This stretch may be no different. Someone warn Gary Thorne before it’s too late.

Their resolve for the coronavirus protocols will be tested early

Heading to Miami on their first road trip will test an Orioles clubhouse on how strictly the players will ultimately police one another off the field the way they say they will. Several players on the team have Florida roots and, in lieu of ticket requests from friends and family, will likely have plenty who want to see them after they’ve been away for so long.

If baseball gets this game schedule underway at the end of the month, the introduction of travel will be a potentially hazardous wrinkle to the player safety plans that everyone will be well used to at their home parks.

The first big trip of the Orioles season will be a unique way to see how that plays for them, win or lose.

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