Bryce, Manny and Ichiro. London calling, and Cleveland rocks. Lots of intrigue on the baseball schedule this summer.
Here are a handful of dates to mark on the calendar:
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 20
Seattle Mariners at Oakland Athletics: Ichiro Suzuki returns to his native Japan when Seattle and Oakland open the season with a two-game set at the Tokyo Dome. The 45-year-old Suzuki, a 10-time All-Star, is nearing the end of his storied career after he hit .205 in 15 games last year before moving into Seattle’s front office. But the lure of playing another game or two in his home country helped draw him back to the field this spring. The Mariners and Athletics also faced each other in the last opening series at Tokyo, splitting two games in 2012.
TUESDAY, APRIL 2
Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper doesn’t have to wait very long to get his first game against Washington out of the way. Harper played for the Nationals for seven seasons, winning the NL MVP award in 2015 and making the All-Star team six times, before agreeing to a $330 million, 13-year contract with the Phillies in February. Now he returns to DC with much-improved Philadelphia. While the loss of Harper is a blow, the Nationals have two of baseball’s most promising young outfielders in Juan Soto and Victor Robles.
TUESDAY, APRIL 9
Toronto Blue Jays at Boston Red Sox: Mookie Betts and the Red Sox get another chance to celebrate their World Series title with ceremonies their home opener against the Blue Jays. Betts led the way last year, winning the AL MVP award for the first time and helping the Red Sox to the franchise’s ninth championship. Boston went 15-4 against Toronto last season, outscoring the Blue Jays 108-77.
FRIDAY, MAY 10
Milwaukee Brewers at Chicago Cubs: The NL Central race went all the way to game No. 163 last year, and Milwaukee beat Chicago 3-1 on its way to its first appearance in the NL Championship Series since 2011. The Brewers return to Wrigley Field for the first time since the tiebreaker when they open a weekend series with an afternoon matchup with the Cubs. Not only did Milwaukee and Chicago battle for the division title last year, but Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich beat out Cubs infielder Javier Baez for his first NL MVP award.
TUESDAY, JUNE 25
San Diego Padres at Baltimore Orioles: Manny Machado plays his first game in Baltimore since the Orioles traded the slugger to the Los Angeles Dodgers last July. Machado helped the Dodgers make it to the World Series before signing a $300 million, 10-deal deal with San Diego in February. Baltimore is looking at another long year after it dropped 115 games last season.
SATURDAY, JUNE 29
New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox: Major League Baseball sends two of its marquee franchises over to London for its first regular-season game in Europe. Aaron Judge and the Yankees take on J.D. Martinez and the Red Sox at Olympic Stadium, home of soccer’s West Ham of the Premier League. New York went 100-62 last year — and finished eight games back of first-place Boston in the AL East. But the Yankees traded for left-hander James Paxton in November and then added to their powerful bullpen by signing Adam Ottavino in January.
TUESDAY, JULY 9
All-Star Game: Cleveland hosts the Midsummer Classic for the sixth time, celebrating the 25th anniversary of Progressive Field. The downtown ballpark also hosted the All-Star Game in 1997, and then-Indians catcher Sandy Alomar hit a tiebreaking two-run homer in the seventh inning of the AL’s 3-1 victory.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 31
Trade deadline: Trade waivers were recently eliminated, meaning no player can be traded after July 31 through the end of the regular season. Players who clear outright waivers can still be claimed and will be eligible for the postseason if they are in the organization before Sept. 1.
FRIDAY, AUG. 16
Los Angeles Dodgers at Atlanta Braves: Cody Bellinger and the Dodgers begin a weekend series against Ozzie Albies and the Braves in a rematch of their NL Division Series last year. The Dodgers reached the World Series for the second straight year in 2018 despite the absence of Corey Seager, who missed much of the season because of elbow and hip surgeries. The baby Braves used breakout seasons by Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr. to take the NL East for the first time since 2013.
MONDAY, SEPT. 23
St. Louis Cardinals at Arizona Diamondbacks: Paul Goldschmidt plays his first game in Arizona since the Diamondbacks traded the slugger to St. Louis in December. The six-time All-Star spent his first eight seasons in the desert, hitting .297 with 209 homers and 710 RBIs in 1,092 games. Now Goldschmidt is trying to get the Cardinals back in the playoffs for the first time since they were eliminated by the Cubs in their 2015 NL Division Series. The Diamondbacks also lost left-hander Patrick Corbin and outfielder A.J. Pollock in free agency over the winter, but they have high hopes for promising young catcher Carson Kelly and right-hander Luke Weaver after they were acquired in the Goldschmidt trade.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap
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