Red Sox

McAdam: As Red Sox return to Fenway, a lot has changed

(Barry Chin/The Boston Globe for Getty Images)

Part of baseball's longstanding appeal has long been its familiarity and continuity.

Step onto the Fenway Park grass, and it's easy to get lost in the history. Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski once called it home. Games were played there before the invention of television, long before the arrival of cell phones.

In that regard, Fenway is timeless.

But when the Red Sox take to the venerable ballpark's lush lawn Friday for the start of their summer training camp, much will be different in comparison to their last appearance last fall.

Mookie Betts? Gone. David Price? Gone. Alex Cora? Same.

You won't be able to tell the players without a scoreboard. Then again, you won't be able to buy one either, since fans will not be permitted in the ballpark -- Friday, or likely, any time for the rest of the 2020 season.

Welcome to baseball's second stab at preparing for the 2020 MLB season, where, for a change, the sport which most prides itself on tradition, very little will be the same.

For one thing, the very fact that "spring" training is being held in Boston -- and not Florida -- is different. That, of course, was made necessary by the coronavirus pandemic, which shuttered the game in mid-March and continues to rage in the Sunshine State, making a return to Fort Myers too risky.

Instead of the usual seven weeks of spring training, this training camp will be truncated to three. Grapefruit League exhibition games? A thing of the past. If the Red Sox play any exhibition games at all -- MLB is limiting teams to a maximum of three, and then, only at the tail end of camp -- they'll likely be against their Opening Day opponent.

Long bus rides across Florida? A thing of the past, at least for now. Morning workouts, followed by afternoon rounds of golf? Not now.

Instead, players will report to Fenway in shifts, to accommodate all of the players. Manager Ron Roenicke won't roam the back fields at Fenway South, moving from one diamond to the other because, well, there will only be one diamond -- the main field at Fenway.

Pitchers will still go through tedious PFP (pitcher's fielding practice) drills, but they'll do so in Chestnut Hill, on the campus of Boston College, a shuttle bus ride away.

Once all of the players get screened and tested, there will be a lot of work for Roenicke, his coaching staff, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and his Baseball Operations staff -- and far less time than normal in which to do it.

All of which lends a complete air of unpredictability to the proceedings.

"I think the game is humbling enough,'' noted Bloom last week, "that we should be careful to think we can know too much about how this different schedule will be an advantage or disadvantage for teams. I think a lot of the things that make teams successful in the long haul also will make them successful over a 60-game sprint.

"But there's going to be some things that are different. Given that we haven't done this before -- especially under these circumstances, especially after this long layoff -- I don't think really know. I think there's a lot of reasons to be optimistic that it can work in our favor. But I think to try to construct too much of a case, I think would be to pretend to know more about this than we can.''

A look at some of the biggest questions that must be answered by July 23:

1. Who's on first?