The Coast News Group
If Petco Park is going to host any postseason games this season, the Padres need to figure out their starting pitching. File photo

Padres begin 2021 season with fans back in attendance at Petco Park

SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Padres will begin their season today, welcoming fans into the stands at Petco Park for the first time since Sept. 26, 2019.

The 1:10 p.m. matchup versus the Arizona Diamondbacks will have capacity limited to 20% due to San Diego County’s position in the red tier of the state’s reopening blueprint.

“It will be 553 days since we’ve last had a Padres fan here for a game,” Padres CEO Erik Greupner said. “We couldn’t be more excited to have our fans back with us, especially given the excitement around this team and the possibilities of what this team can accomplish this season.”

Greupner said the organization was “confident” that a number of new health and safety measures being implemented at Petco Park will make it “one of the safest places for our fans to be in San Diego.”

Along with reduced capacity, the Padres are using contact-less technology for its ticketing, retail and food sales. Fans will be able to order food and beverages for pickup or in-seat delivery through the MLB Ballpark app.

Fans will be seated in socially distant “seating pods” and the park will feature signage and spacing markers throughout the park to promote proper distancing.

Masks will be required to be worn except when fans are actively eating or drinking in their seat. Children 2 years old or younger will not have to wear face coverings.

Most outside food and beverages will not be permitted into the park, though fans will be allowed to bring a factory-sealed plastic bottled water that is clear and unflavored and that is 1 liter or less, as well as soft-sided single juice or milk containers or Americans with Disabilities Act-required liquids in a sealed container.

Bags will also be prohibited with the exception of 6.5-inch-by-4.5- inch small clutch purses, infant and medical bags.

Right-hander Yu Darvish will make his debut with the Padres, facing Arizona left-hander Madison Bumgarner.

Following a second-place finish in the National League West in the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season, during which they finished with a winning record for the first time since 2010 and advanced to the National League Division Series, optimism is high for an even better 2021 season, thanks in part to the off-season acquisitions of pitching stars such as Darvish and Blake Snell.

Baseball Prospectus’ proprietary PECOTA system projects the Padres will win 95 games, second-most in the National League behind the defending World Series-champion Los Angeles Dodgers, who are projected to win 104.

FanGraphs says the Padres have a 92.3% chance of qualifying for the playoffs, a 30.2% chance of winning the National League West and an 11% chance of winning the World Series, the fourth-highest in MLB behind the Dodgers (22.2%), New York Yankees (17.6%) and New York Mets (11.2%).