Fans in Detroit, San Francisco and St. Louis can count on seeing familiar faces for a while. As a long, long spring training wound down, Tigers ace Justin Verlander, Giants MVP Buster Posey and St. Louis star Adam Wainwright signed long-term deals.
In the meantime, teams are figuring out how to prepare for this funny season. 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."
Porter already has his pitchers in the cage, working on their bunting. Too soon for Verlander and the Tigers' staff to swing away.
"We'll have to hit some, but it's a Catch-22 because I don't want Verlander breaking his finger," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said.
As for his AL Central champions closing on the road against the Marlins, "whatever is good for baseball," the 68-year-old Leyland said.
"We have a designated hitter in the All-Star game, instant replay. Things change and if it is good for the game, I am all for it," he said.
The Tigers, Boston, Toronto and Seattle each play at NL parks in September, leaving them a hitter short. For that reason, Leyland suggests interleague games down the stretch should he played at AL parks.
"It's definitely an advantage for the National League," Leyland said. "It works out more advantageous to them. I think eventually they'll go uniform."
Adds Rays manager Joe Maddon: "It's going to be clunky at the end."
Baltimore doesn't play its first NL road games until Memorial Day, but has eight straight out West in August. Orioles catcher Matt Wieters figures he'll spend more time "going over scouting reports on new hitters we haven't seen."
St. Louis doesn't see an AL opponent until it plays Kansas City in late May. But the Royals go to Philadelphia and Atlanta in the first 2½ weeks.
When interleague play started in 1997, Cardinals pitcher Jake Westbrook said, "it was something new and it seemed odd to a lot of people. The DH, same thing with that longer ago."
"The idea of interleague play most every day, this is something else new. That's always been a question with interleague play — it's unbalanced, who plays who," he said.
Baker is hoping for an early edge when Pujols arrives.
"In the case of us playing the Angels, does Albert not play? Does he DH? I wouldn't mind if Albert just spectated," he said. "He'd be a mean pinch hitter. He's probably greasing his glove right now."
Later that week, Phillies great Mike Schmidt will test his arm. He was the MVP of the 1980 World Series when Philadelphia beat George Brett and the Royals — the Hall of Famers are set to throw out the first balls when Kansas City visits Citizens Bank Park for the first time since 2004.
"Playing your home opener against an AL team is weird," Schmidt said. "Where's the charm in that?"
Also this season:
— Along with Porter and Gibbons, the new managers are Terry Francona in Cleveland, John Farrell in Boston, Mike Redmond in Miami and Walt Weiss in Colorado.
— Major League Baseball didn't expand replay this year. Tags, plays at first base, traps — no consensus yet on what to review or how to do it.
— The Mets host the All-Star game at Citi Field on July 16. It's been a while since the showcase was held in Queens — Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays got top billing at Shea Stadium in 1964.
— Former MVPs Miguel Tejada (Royals) and Jason Giambi (Indians) earned spots this season. Tejada was out of the majors last year.
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