Red Sox to open vs. Yankees in draft of 2013 schedule

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Red Sox to open vs. Yankees in draft of 2013 schedule

Not unlike most fans of the Red Sox, Major League Baseball's schedule makers are already focused on 2013 -- and they have a first draft of next year's schedule already in place.

Several baseball sources who've seen the schedule -- which is tentative and subject to change -- shared some of the details on the condition of anonymity.

The schedule features, among other items:

The Red Sox are expected to open the 2013 season exactly where they will end the 2012 season -- in New York.

The Sox are expected to open the year with a three-game set April 2-4 in Yankee Stadium. Their season opener is set to be on Tuesday, April 2, though it's conceivable that MLB will push back the first game of that series to Sunday March 31 to open the season on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball.

The Sox then travel from New York to Toronto, where, for the second straight year, their second series of the year will have them playing the Blue Jays for three games.

Boston is set to open its home schedule on Monday, April 8 against the Baltimore Orioles. The Sox are expected to host the Orioles on Tuesday and Wednesday April 9 and 10 with an off-day set for April 11. The Sox are said to be trying to move their off-day to Tuesday, in case rain threatens the home opener.

In fact, the Sox have reportedly been lobbying MLB to lighten their load of April home games out of concern for cold andor rainy weather in the spring. Because of the complications involved with changing the schedule, the Sox are resigned to the fact that any changes to the glut of home games in the season's first month will be minimal.

The Tampa Bay Rays follow the Orioles into town for a four-game set that carries over to the traditional early start on Patriots Day, Monday, April 15. The Kansas City Royals then follow the Rays into town to complete the first homestand.

In another statistical oddity, following this year's quirk that saw the Sox not visit New York until after the All-Star break, the reverse will be true in 2013: the Yankees won't come to Boston until the first series after the All-Star break: July 19-21.

The Yankees will also visit Fenway for another weekend set from Aug. 16-18 and again, on a weekend in the final month, from Sept. 13-15.

In interleague play, the Sox will host four teams: San Diego (July 2-4); Philadelphia (May 27-28); Colorado (June 25-26) and Arizona at an unknown date.

On the road, the Red Sox will travel to AT&T Park in San Francisco from Aug. 19-21 and Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles from Aug 23-25. The Sox will also travel to Colorado for a two-game series as part of their final road trip of the season.

Thanks to a realignment that will feature two 15-team leagues -- with Houston switching from the National League to the American League -- baseball needs to have interleague play virtually every day.

The Astros will make their first visit to Fenway as an A.L. team on April 27-29.

The Sox will make their annual trek to the West Coast in the trip immediately preceding the All-Star break, visiting Anaheim, Seattle and Oakland in the first two weeks of July.

The regular season will end in Baltimore for the second time in the last three seasons.

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

NEW YORK - There won't be any wild pitches on intentional walks this season.

The players' association has agreed to Major League Baseball's proposal to have intentional walks without pitches this year.

"It doesn't seem like that big of a deal. I know they're trying to cut out some of the fat. I'm OK with that," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

While the union has resisted many of MLB's proposed innovations, such as raising the bottom of the strike zone, installing pitch clocks and limiting trips to the mound, players are willing to accept the intentional walk change.

"As part of a broader discussion with other moving pieces, the answer is yes," union head Tony Clark wrote Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press. "There are details, as part of that discussion, that are still being worked through, however."

The union's decision was first reported by ESPN .

"I'm OK with it. You signal. I don't think that's a big deal," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "For the most part, it's not changing the strategy, it's just kind of speeding things up. I'm good with it."

There were 932 intentional walks last year, including 600 in the National League, where batters are walked to bring the pitcher's slot to the plate.

"You don't want to get your pitcher out of a rhythm, and when you do the intentional walk, I think you can take a pitcher out of his rhythm," Girardi said. "I've often wondered why you don't bring in your shortstop and the pitcher stand at short. Let the shortstop walk him. They're used to playing catch more like that than a pitcher is."

Agreement with the union is required for playing rules changes unless MLB gives one year advance notice, in which case it can unilaterally make alterations. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope Tuesday that ongoing talks would lead to an agreement on other changes but also said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Some changes with video review can be made unilaterally, such as shortening the time to make a challenge.

"I know they were thinking about putting in a 30-second (limit) for managers to make a decision," Francona said. "I actually wish they would. I think it would hustle it up and if we can't tell in 30 seconds, maybe we shouldn't be doing it anyway."

Bean: There's no way to spin a potential Ortiz return as a bad idea

Bean: There's no way to spin a potential Ortiz return as a bad idea

As if there weren’t enough storylines with the 2017 Red Sox, there figures to be the lingering possibility that, at any point, one of the franchise’s greatest hitters will return to make a push for his fourth World Series title.

As Pedro Martinez keeps saying, he won’t believe David Ortiz is retired until season’s end.

And with that possibility comes a good ol’ fashioned sports debate: You’re maybe the biggest lunatic in the whole wide world if you’re hoping for the latter.

There are exactly two potential downsides to Ortiz coming back. One is that the team would be worse defensively if it puts Hanley Ramirez in the field, a tradeoff that seemingly anyone would take if it meant adding Ortiz’ offense to the middle of the order. The other is that we would probably have to see Kenan Thompson’s Ortiz impression again . . . which, come to think of it, would be the worst. Actually, I might kill myself if that happens.  

All the other drawbacks are varying degrees of noise. It basically boils down to the “what if he isn’t good?” fear. Which may be valid, but it shouldn’t be reason enough to not want him to attempt a comeback.

Ortiz is coming off a 38-homer, 127-RBI 2016 in which he hit .315 with a league-best 1.021 OPS. It's probably the best final season of any hitter over the last 50 years.

We also know Ortiz is 41 and dealt with ankle and heel injuries so vast in recent years that he was “playing on stumps,” according to Red Sox coordinator of sports medicine services Dan Dyrek. There is the possibility that he was almost literally on his last legs in 2016 and that he doesn’t have another great season in him.

Unless Ortiz is medically incapable and/or not interested in returning, what would the harm be in rolling the dice? Is it a money thing? It really depends on just how intent the Sox are on staying under the luxury-tax threshold, but it’s hard to imagine that holding them up given that they’ve bobbed over and under the line throughout the years.

The one unacceptable argument is the legacy stuff, which expresses concern that Ortiz would tarnish his overall body of work if he came back for one last season and was relatively ineffective.  

If you think that five years after Ortiz is done playing, a single person will say, “Yeah, he’s a Hall of Famer; it’s just a shame he came back that for one last season,” you’re absolutely crazy. The fact that one could dwell that much on a legacy shows how much they romanticize the player, meaning that in however many years it's the 40-homer seasons, and not the potentially underwhelming few months in 2017, that will stand the test of time.

But he’ll have thrown away having one of the best final seasons ever for a hitter.

Oh man. That’s a life-ruiner right there. A 10-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion totally becomes just another guy if you take that away.

Plus, the fact that he’s a DH limits how bad it could really be. You won’t get the sight of an over-the-hill Willie Mays misplaying fly balls in the 1973 World Series after hitting .211 in the regular season. Ortiz will either be able to hit or he won’t, and if it’s the latter they’ll chalk it up to age and injuries and sit him down. Any potential decision to put him on the field in a World Series would likely mean his bat was worth it enough to get them to that point.

The Red Sox, on paper at least, have a real shot at another title. Teams in such a position should always go for broke. Ortiz has absolutely nothing left to prove, but if he thinks he has anything left to give, nobody but the fans who dropped 30-something bucks on T-shirts commemorating his retirement should have a problem with that.