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Preparing for interleague intrigue
AL-NL games start right out of gate this year, and continue well into September

  • The Giants' Brandon Crawford steals second base under the tag by Los Angeles Angels second baseman Howard Kendrick during the fourth inning of a spring training game in Tempe, Ariz., on Sunday. Games pitting AL and NL teams will be spread throughout the 2013 season. (Chris Carlson / Associated Press)

On a windy morning at spring training, a trio of Phillies catchers met behind the batting cage to shoot the breeze.

The topic? Interleague intrigue, right from the get-go.

“We were just talking about that in batting practice, that it's a little weird to face the American League so early,” All-Star Carlos Ruiz said. “But it's a different schedule this year.”

Sure is.

Josh Hamilton and the Los Angeles Angels visit Cincinnati in an opener that's hardly traditional. Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers finish the season at Miami — minus a designated hitter.

Derek Jeter and the Yankees cross over to the National League each month, then host World Series champion San Francisco in late September. Just a guess — New York fans will howl at the prospect of seeing Matt Cain and the pitching-rich Giants if a playoff spot is at stake.

Add up the scattered AL vs. NL matchups, and it's like a mini-World Series most every day.

“It's going to be totally different,” said Houston manager Bo Porter, one of six new skippers in the majors.

Might as well blame Porter's Astros, too. Their shift from the NL Central to the AL West left 15 teams in each league, creating all this havoc.

Opening day is March 31 in Houston, when Texas comes to town for a Sunday-night start.

That's followed by Angels-Reds on April 1. A few days later, Philadelphia plays its home opener — against the Kansas City Royals.

Just sounds jarring, doesn't it? “It is very strange,” Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker said. “This usually doesn't happen until June or July.

“What it does is it increases your workload on scouting, advance reports and things like that. You don't have a lot of familiarity on those teams.”

Previously, Porter said, it was easy to plan for blocks of interleague games.

“A lot of times, a National League team would call up a DH-type guy during that segment of their schedule,” he said. “Now that's hard to do because you're going to have interleague taking place the entire course of the season. It definitely changes roster construction.”

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