Highlights from the 2013 MLB schedule

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MLB released its 2013 schedule with a couple of surprises today. One nice one: a scheduled doubleheader between the Rangers and Diamondbacks on Memorial Day (May 27).

As expected, Opening Day will revert back to Monday next year after midweek openers the last two seasons. There are currently 12 games slated for April 1, including a Red Sox-Yankees matchup and an interleague game featuring the Angels and Reds. After the World Series, ESPN will pick one of those 12 games to move up to Sunday night for its season kickoff.

The Astros will play their first game as an American League team when they host the Rangers on on April 2. It’s the shift of the Astros to the AL, creating two 15-team leagues, that will necessitate daily interleague games throughout the season. However, MLB has still scheduled a chunk of interleague play around the Memorial Day holiday. That week will feature some very unusual back-to-back two-game series between rivals.

As such, the Mets will host the Yankees on Monday and Tuesday and then go to Yankee Stadium for games Wednesday and Thursday. Similar arrangements will play out between the Cubs and White Sox; the Red Sox and Phillies; the Angels and Dodgers; the Orioles and Nationals; and the Giants and A’s, as well as others.

That every division will now have five teams makes for a particularly challenging schedule. Yet MLB has done its best to close the season with as many divisional matchups as possible (which is 12). Next year’s season-ending series will include Angels-Rangers, Red Sox-Orioles, Rockies-Dodgers, Phillies-Braves, Padres-Giants and Cubs-Cardinals. The Yankees will get the Astros to finish the season, while the Tigers will face the Marlins in the final interleague series.

Kyle Schwarber is “probably, arguably” in The Best Shape of His Life

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Joe Maddon just held his annual media availability here at the Winter Meetings. During the scrum he said that Kyle Schwarber “looked great the other day” at a Cubs community event and that . . . wait for it . . . “he’s in, probably, arguably in the best shape of his life.” Maddon went on to say that, if Schwarber looks good in spring training, he might even be the Cubs leadoff hitter in 2018.

Schwarber is only 24, but the former catcher turned outfielder is going to spend most of his career as a DH, with another team obviously, unless he shows the Cubs that he can be a regular defender. The Cubs would love to see him in better shape whether they keep him or shop him, and if it’s the latter, they’ll want to show potential trade partners that he can play defense so as not to limit his market. It’s in everyone’s interests for him to be lean, mean and a bit more flexible once spring training starts.

To that end, according to a recent report, Schwarber “has been on a mission this offseason to transform his body.” And now Maddon is playing up the BSOHL angle. Whether that’s salesmanship or not, all eyes are going to be on Schwarber come February.