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2018 will feature the earliest Opening Day in baseball history

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Major League Baseball announced its master schedule for the 2018 season. Opening Day will be Thursday, March 29. It’s the earliest Opening Day in baseball history, with the exception of special international openers like the ones in Japan and Australia. Until now, the earliest opening date for a season at traditional Major League ballparks was March 30, which was the opener in 2003, 2008 and 2014.

It will also mark the first time since 1968 when all teams begin on the same day. In recent years we’ve seen a Sunday night opener for ESPN and, before that, we’d see a lot of split openers, with roughly half of the teams beginning on one day, half the next.

The differences in schedule are attributable to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that runs through 2021. Under its terms, a weekend of play is added at the beginning of the season in order to allow teams to get three or four additional days off during the course of the season.

The final day of the 2018 regular season is scheduled for Sunday, September 30, which is a little earlier than most seasons have ended in recent years, allowing the playoffs to conclude in October rather than bleed into November as they have, or at least have potentially, in the past few seasons.

I suspect some people will complain about the early start, particularly if there is bad weather. But overall the extra days off and the playoffs getting underway earlier should be a net benefit. I like it.

Report: Blue Jays and Marco Estrada nearing agreement on contract extension

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Jon Morosi reports that the Blue Jays and starter Marco Estrada are nearing an agreement on a contract extension. The deal is expected to be for one guaranteed year, Morosi adds.

Estrada, 34, was set to become a free agent after the season. He earned $26 million on a two-year contract signed with the Jays in November 2015. While the right-hander has a subpar 4.84 ERA on the season, he has a solid 170/67 K/BB ratio in 176 2/3 innings and has looked much better since the end of July. Between July 31 and his most recent start on Saturday, Estrada owns a 3.75 ERA.

J.A. Happ is the only other starter technically under contract with the Jays next season. Marcus Stroman will be eligible for his second year of arbitration and the Jays will certainly agree to give him a raise on his $3.4 million salary for the 2017 season. The Jays will likely be active this offseason in adding rotation help and they’re starting early by locking up Estrada.

Video: Jackie Bradley, Jr. robs Chris Davis of a home run

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Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. robbed Orioles first baseman Chris Davis of his 25th home run on Tuesday evening, leaping at the fence in center field to make the catch and keep the game scoreless in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Davis swung at the first pitch he saw from Drew Pomeranz, a slider that crossed the middle of the plate.

This game has potential playoff implications, as the first-place Red Sox hold a three-game lead over the Yankees in the NL East. Meanwhile, the Orioles are still in the AL Wild Card race, trailing the Twins by 5.5 games for the second Wild Card slot.