MLB 2015: Key dates for the upcoming season
A prime-time opener on the north side of Chicago and what could be a frantic final day bookend the 2015 major league season. A handful of dates to mark on the schedule:
SUNDAY, APRIL 5
St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs: The regular season begins with one of baseball's best rivalries at the majors' second-oldest ballpark, but Wrigley Field will have a much different look than it did at the end of last year. A massive new videoboard is expected to be in place for opening day, and the famed bleachers will be under construction for the first part of the season. The Cubs themselves also have a much different look, with Jon Lester leading an improved rotation and Joe Maddon in the dugout. It's mostly business as usual for St. Louis, which is trying for its third consecutive NL Central title.
FRIDAY, MAY 1
New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox: The Yankees play for the first time this season at Fenway Park, where the Red Sox faithful likely will have some choice words for Alex Rodriguez in what could be his first game in Boston since his one-year drug suspension. Rodriguez, who turns 40 in July, is a .288 hitter with 24 homers and 76 RBIs in 119 career games at the oldest park in majors, having opened in 1912.
SATURDAY, MAY 23
Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox: The White Sox honor longtime first baseman Paul Konerko by retiring his No. 14 jersey in a pregame ceremony. Konerko spent the final 16 of his 19 major league seasons with the White Sox, retiring last year as the franchise leader with 4,010 total bases. He hit a grand slam in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series as Chicago swept Houston for its first title since 1917.
MONDAY, JUNE 15
Seattle Mariners at San Francisco Giants: This intriguing interleague matchup features a team looking for a major leap this year in Seattle against the game's gold standard at the moment, the reigning World Series champion Giants. Seattle gave Nelson Cruz a $57 million, four-year contract in December to fill its hole at designated hitter, while San Francisco was mostly quiet over the winter. A healthy season for right-hander Matt Cain could provide a big boost for the Giants as they try for their fourth title in the last six seasons.
TUESDAY, JULY 14
All-Star Game: The Midsummer Classic comes to Cincinnati for the fifth time, but it will be the first one at 12-year-old Great American Ball Park. It also will be the first All-Star game since Rob Manfred took over as commissioner, and he likely will face a steady stream of questions about one of Cincy's favorite sons if Pete Rose's petition for reinstatement is unresolved by the time the game rolls around. Baseball's oldest professional franchise likely will want to involve the suspended hit king in the festivities in some way, providing another test for Manfred's leadership.
SUNDAY, JULY 26
Hall of Fame inductions: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio are immortalized in Cooperstown, New York. Johnson, Martinez and Smoltz each got in on their first try for the first trio of pitchers voted in together by the baseball writers. Biggio, who played second base, catcher and the outfield during his 20-year career with Houston, made it on his third attempt after falling two votes shy last year.
FRIDAY, JULY 31
Trade deadline: The last chance for teams to make deals without having to first pass players through waivers. Who will be on the move as baseball heads into the final part of the season?
MONDAY, AUG. 10
Washington Nationals at Los Angeles Dodgers: Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw have faced off one time, and each of them departed with a no-decision when Kershaw's Dodgers rallied to beat Scherzer's Diamondbacks 5-3 on Sept. 7, 2008. Scherzer won 18 games for Detroit last year, and then signed a $210 million, seven-year contract with Washington over the winter - increasing the possibility that he could hook up with Kershaw once again in one of six regular-season meetings between the division winners, or quite possibly in the playoffs.
SUNDAY, SEPT. 13
Detroit Tigers at Cleveland Indians: Miguel Cabrera and Detroit are going for their fifth consecutive AL Central title, but the division is wide open after Scherzer left in free agency and the White Sox and Indians each made major strides in the offseason. The Tigers and Indians play seven times in the first two weeks of September, including this finale of a four-game set that wraps up the season series between the clubs. Detroit went 11-8 against Cleveland in 2014, taking seven of the last eight games.
SUNDAY, OCT. 4
Final day of regular season: Each of baseball's 15 games are scheduled to begin shortly after 3 p.m. EDT, possibly creating an anxious afternoon of scoreboard watching for contenders trying to get into the postseason and playoff teams wondering about their next opponent.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap