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The Strike Zone

Highlights of 2014 schedule include three Opening Days, one of them Down Under

Sydney Cricket Ground Australia's Sydney Cricket Ground will play host to the Dodgers and Diamondbacks for the first game of the 2014 season. (AP)

Major League Baseball released its tentative 2014 master schedule on Tuesday, and as expected, the season will open on foreign soil and produce not one but three Opening Days. On Saturday, March 22 and Sunday, March 23, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks will square off in a pair of games in Sydney, Australia. The following Sunday, March 30, will feature an ESPN-televised prime time matchup between two as-yet-unannounced teams, with 14 pairings taking place on March 31.

The Sydney series, which will take place at the Sydney Cricket Ground and mark the first major league games played on the continent, was announced back on June 12, one day after the Dodgers and Diamondbacks wound up in an epic brawl that led to five suspensions. This will mark the seventh time the major league season has opened outside of North America, and the fourth host city; previous ones have been Monterrey, Mexico (1999); Tokyo, Japan (2000, 2004, 2008, 2012), and San Juan, Puerto Rico (2001). The week-long delay between the two Sydney games and the rest of the regular season schedule is designed to help the Dodgers and Diamondbacks reacclimate after traveling so far. Exhibitions will continue for the other 28 teams during that week, with the teams eventually breaking north for preseason games such as those between the Blue Jays and Mets in Montreal on March 28-29.

Given that the Yankees and Astros are the only two teams not scheduled for March 31, they would appear to be candidates for that March 30 game. They're currently scheduled for a three-game series in Houston from April 1-3; one of those games -- perhaps the last of them -- could be scrubbed to set up that Sunday night game. Here are the pairings for March 31, Opening Day for 26 of the 28 teams:

Blue Jays at Rays

Braves at Brewers

Cardinals at Reds

Cubs at Pirates

Dodgers at Padres

Giants at Diamondbacks

Indians at Athletics

Mariners at Angels

Nationals at Mets

Phillies at Rangers

Red Sox at Orioles

Rockies at Marlins

Royals at Tigers

Twins at White Sox

Of the 15 teams that open on the road, here are their home openers opponents and dates:

Blue Jays: host Yankees April 4

Braves: host Mets April 8

Cardinals: host Reds April 7

Cubs: host Phillies April 4

Dodgers: host Giants April 4

Giants: host Diamondbacks April 8

Indians: host Twins April 4

Mariners: host Angels April 8

Nationals: host Braves April 4

Phillies: host Brewers April 7

Red Sox: host Brewers April 4

Rockies: host Diamondbacks April 4

Royals: host White Sox April 4

Twins: host A's April 7

Yankees: host Orioles April 7

As with 2013, interleague play will take place all season long, starting with the Phillies-Rangers series (if only Michael Young could be there). For 2014, the rotating interleague division matchups will pair the NL East and AL West, the NL West and AL Central and the NL Central and AL East. That means that for at least another year, we'll have to wait to see a series that sends the Padres to Toronto. After MLB checked off six previously unconsummated interleague series this year -- including Dodgers at Yankees -- that's the lone matchup that has yet to occur; the two teams have played three series in San Diego, including one earlier this season.

The intrastate home-and-home rivalry matchups will start with the Windy City series between the Cubs and White Sox on May 5-6 at Wrigley Field and May 7-8 at U.S. Cellular Field, followed by the Subway Series between the Yankees and Mets on May 12-13 at Yankee Stadium and May 14-15 at Citi Field, the Bay Bridge Series between the A's and Giants on June 7-8 at the Coliseum and June 9-10 at AT&T Park, the Freeway Series between the Dodgers and Angels on Aug. 4-5 at Angels Stadium and Aug. 6-7 at Dodger Stadium, and the Battle of Ohio between the Indians and Reds on Aug. 4-5 at Progressive Field and Aug. 6-7 at Great American Ballpark.

Jackie Robinson Day will be held on Tuesday, April 15, celebrating the 67th anniversary of the shattering of the major league color barrier, though the Dodgers will be in San Francisco that night. They don't return home until April 18 against the Diamondbacks; their schedule for that celebration, as well as those of the other teams on the road on April 15, will be announced at a later date.

As for other dates of note, the amateur draft will be held on June 5, and the All-Star Game will take place at Target Field in Minneapolis on July 15, meaning the All-Star break runs from July 14-17. The regular season ends on Sunday, Sept. 28, allowing for a World Series that wraps up by the end of October. The final master schedule, which will include start times for most games, will be announced in January.
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