Houston's move from the NL Central to the AL West created two leagues with an odd number of teams. So for the first time, there will be interleague play every day, which has its pros and cons. Imagine the Tigers fighting for the AL Central title, needing to win their final series ... in Miami, where Detroit will play without a DH. Let's hope one of those games doesn't come down to a Justin Verlander at bat: He's 0 for 24 with 14 strikeouts.
The interleague slate will also add sizzle, especially in the first half. Here are some of the must-attend games. Find more at SI.com/mustattend.
APRIL 1-4 ANGELS AT REDS: For the first time since Cincy traded him in 2007, Josh Hamilton returns to the town where his career got rolling.
APRIL 5--7 ROYALS AT PHILLIES: Philadelphia opens its home schedule with a rematch of the 1980 World Series.
JUNE 18--19 DODGERS AT YANKEES: These teams have lots of history—in October. This is the Dodgers' first regular-season visit to the Bronx.
JULY 2--4 CUBS AT A'S: Cubs Nation's final frontier: The Cubbies travel to Oakland, the only big league city they have never visited.
Underaged and Overworked
For more than a decade, SI senior writer Tom Verducci has tracked what he calls the Year-After Effect, a pattern of young pitchers getting hurt or regressing after their workload has greatly increased. The rule of thumb: A hurler 25 or under who sees a spike of at least 30 innings over the previous season (including those pitched in the minors) is at risk for injury or ineffectiveness the following year. In the past seven years Verducci has red-flagged 69 pitchers; 55 of them experienced the Year-After Effect.
The YAE could have a new poster boy this year: White Sox starter Chris Sale, who moved from the bullpen to the rotation in his age-23 season, threw 192 innings and put up by far the largest increase ever (+121) in Year-After tracking. (The previous high was Paul Maholm's 981/3 innings, in 2005.) Perhaps it's no surprise that the skinny lefty faded down the stretch. In his last seven starts, Sale, who finished the year with a 3.05 ERA, went 2--4 with a 4.62 ERA. Here are five other pitchers who bear close watching.