Wondering what it will sound like when the Philadelphia Phillies open the season inside an empty Citizens Bank Park?

Well, it’s now a matter of weeks before we find out.

On July 24, the Phillies host the Miami Marlins in a three-game series.

Welcome to the 2.0 version of the 2020 MLB regular season.

The opening series is identical to the original March start except for the change in locations. And there is that other minor change.

You know, the one where fans are not allowed inside MLB ballparks thanks to COVID-19. So does location really matter?

Plus, this season comes with the unknown of how much the Phillies roster is going to be impacted by the global pandemic.

Keep in mind, a 60-game schedule leaves little room for error. Here is a closer look at what the revised Phillies season looks like.

Staying healthy key for Phillies in 2020

Even before the Phillies arrived at camp last week, questions started circulating regarding the team’s health.

In comparison to hamstring and shoulder strains and other common baseball injuries, COVID-19 is a much more serious matter. But if players test positive, special precautions are in place to protect other team members.

When Aaron Nola was missing in action last week, rumors started circulating that the ace pitcher had the virus.

It turns out Nola is doing just fine.

Of course, the lingering concern in the next few months is that if a player contracts COVID, there is the realistic possibility he could be lost for the season.

And it will be up to the player to decide whether or not to make the news public.

For instance, the Phillies starting third baseman Scott Kingery is on the injured list. So are pitchers Hector NerisTommy Hunter and Ranger Suarez. The report, however, does not provide reasons.

But whatever their injury is, players still have two-plus weeks of healing time.

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Yankees present early test for the Phillies

When it comes time to play ball, the Phillies are going to be tested early.

For starters, Miami, despite finishing last in the NL East in 2019, is the team that prevented Philadelphia from finishing with a winning record.

In other words, there is no guarantee the Phillies will get off to a 3-0 start.

From there, they will host the New York Yankees, who are favored to win the American League.

If we are basing things off of current MLB betting odds, this would be a golden opportunity for Philly to capture some early attention.

But then, without a day off, the two teams will travel to the Bronx and play two more games.

DraftKings Sportsbook has the Bronx Bombers at +400 to win it all. Only the Los Angeles Dodgers at +375 have slightly better odds.

The Phillies, by comparison, come in at +2000.

For those wondering, the Phillies’ odds of winning the NL currently sit at +1100. They are tied for fifth-best.

Here is a look at the current DraftKings National League championship odds:

  • Dodgers +170
  • Braves +600
  • Nationals +750
  • Mets +900
  • Cardinals +900
  • Cubs +1100

Looking deeper at the 2020 MLB schedule

Now, if this was a normal season, the Phillies would be playing at least one home and away series with each of those previously mentioned teams.

But in a pandemic-shortened season, trips to LA and St. Louis would make it extremely difficult to cram 60 games into 66 days.

Each team is playing 10 games against their respective division foes. In the Phillies’ case, this includes the defending world champ Nationals, the Braves and the Mets.

And all three of these franchises have slightly better odds than the Phils to win the National League.

The team’s chances of winning the NL East, on the other hand, are much better at +325.

Here’s how the rest of the NL East odds shape up at DraftKings, FanDuel Sportsbook and FoxBet NJ:

National League East Team OddsBravesNationalsMetsPhilliesMarlins
DraftKings+215+250+275+325+20000
FanDuel+200+240+290+320+10000
FoxBet NJ+185+260+300+350+25000

A shortened season comes with its advantages, though. The Phillies are playing all 10 games against Atlanta in August.

Talk about the importance of a quick start.

Six of their 10 games against the Nationals, however, are slated for September.

By the way, forget about announcers frequently using the words “day off.” There are a total of three in August and two in September.

So rain and injuries will create major headaches for all 30 teams.

Get to know these 2020 MLB rule changes

Since there is very little room for scheduling adjustments, MLB is changing the rules slightly.

First, forget about Nola or Zach Wheeler striking out on three pitches. The designated hitter will be taking their at-bats.

The rule is in place for this season only.

And remember those drawn-out, extra-inning games? You know, the ones that last 16 innings and go until 1 a.m.?

Not this season.

Instead, each team starts the extra frame with a runner on second base, which makes settling the final score a little easier and quicker.

And managers will not be making pitching changes after every batter this season. All pitchers must face at least three batters. The rule applies to starters and relievers.

The Phillies and MLB betting options

So now that we’ve rounded the bases with the basics, here is a look at some unique NJ sports betting options.

BetMGM Sportsbook, for instance, has several Bryce Harper specials posted.

Here are a few:

  • Total hits (over/under 52.5)
  • Total RBIs (over/under 35.5)
  • Total home runs (over/under 15.5)

As expected, these numbers are way off of his career averages of 134 hits, 79 RBIs and 27 homers.

But the over/under lines are based on a 60-game, not 162-game, season.

Fox Bet NJ also posted several props, too, like which pitcher will have the most strikeouts.

Nola’s odds are at +2500. By comparison, Yankees ace Gerrit Cole leads the field at +225.

Call them intriguing side bets.

But the bottom line is, the Phillies need Harper and Nola to put up consistent numbers if the team is going to have any shot at contending.

The Phillies as NL East champions does have a nice ring to it, even if it happens during a 60-game season.

July 24 can’t come soon enough.

Bill Gelman

About

Bill Gelman is a veteran sports writer based just outside of Philadelphia and not too far from the Jersey Shore. Bill spends time in Atlantic City writing about casino openings and expansions, special events and world championship boxing at Boardwalk Hall. He is now adding NJ sports betting and online gambling to the mix.