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Early '11 MLB Schedule Sees Season Start In March, End In October

Giants, D'Backs Still In Talks To Open '11 Season With Two-Game Series In Taiwan

MLB and its 30 teams today announced the master schedule for the '11 season, officially confirming much-discussed plans to begin and end the season earlier in an attempt to avoid November playoff games. The season will begin with five games on Thursday, March 31, eschewing the traditional league start of one game on a Sunday evening on ESPN and a full slate of games the following day. One of those five games on March 31 -- to be hosted by the Cardinals, Nationals, Reds, Royals and Yankees -- could be moved to a primetime TV window on Wednesday, March 30. The '11 regular season will then conclude on Wednesday, Sept. 28, again veering away from the typical Sunday conclusion. The changes came in large part from Commissioner Bud Selig's Special Committee for On-Field Matters, which earlier this year also announced a one-day condensing of each LCS. Highlights in the '11 schedule include the Cubs' first trip to Fenway Park since the '18 World Series and the July 12 All-Star Game in Phoenix. There will be no new MLB ballpark openings next year for the first time since '07. MLB and the MLBPA are still discussing a potential overseas opening to the season with a two-game series in Taiwan in late March involving the Giants and D'Backs (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).

MOVING TO MIDWEEK: USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale notes "only four seasons have begun earlier, and it will mark the first time since 1976 that opening day will be on a Thursday." MLB Senior VP/Scheduling & Club Relations Katy Feeney said that teams were "given the option of starting on Thursday or Friday," and "five teams opted to start a day earlier, leaving an open-day on Friday in case there's a postponement." The World Series is "scheduled to begin on Wednesday, Oct. 19, a week earlier than the last two years, with Game 7 on Oct. 27." Tigers manager Jim Leyland, a member of Selig's committee, said, "The sooner we play the postseason -- with football going on and the weather -- the better we'll be. It's rough playing in November with the weather being so cold." A's GM Billy Beane: "You're certainly going to have regular-season games in April that will be changed or affected by the weather. But given the choice, you'd rather lose games then than in the postseason" (USA TODAY, 9/15). In Cincinnati, John Fay notes the Reds have traditionally hosted one of the first games played the opening Monday afternoon of the season, and festivities around the game include the Opening Day Findlay Market Parade. Reds COO Phil Castellini said of the '11 schedule, "This is a year that shifted that paradigm. We were focused on retaining the traditions we have. That includes the Reds having Opening Day at home. That continues to be of importance." Fay notes the opener "will be a day game" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 9/15).

A REAL LONG ROAD TRIP: The D'Backs are "scheduled to start the year on the road, first in Colorado (April 1-3) and then Chicago (April 4-6)," but that "could change if approval is met on the Taiwan series, which would see the Diamondbacks and Giants play a two-game series, likely in mid-March." MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner said of discussions over the Taiwan series, "There has been progress, but it hasn't been settled yet" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 9/15). MLB Giants VP/Baseball Operations Bobby Evans said of the Taiwan games and playing internationally, "You have to be team players with the game. ... There's going to be a time where we are going to get a chance to do it, and maybe that's as early as next year. Either way it's good for baseball and we have to take that into account too" ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 9/14).

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