Opening Day is still more than four months away, and it’s still 11 weeks until spring training. It’s never too early to think about the 2013 season, so let’s look at five dates to circle on next season’s calendar.
1) April 5 vs. Minnesota
The 2012 season began on Apr. 6 against the Twins. It was the 20th anniversary of the Opening of Oriole Park. Jake Arrieta pitched magnificently, and the Orioles won their first three games.
Next season, the Orioles begin with three games at Tampa Bay and return for three games with Minnesota before playing six at Boston and New York.
Buck Showalter and the Orioles will be greeted warmly, and while Jason Hammel or Wei-Yin Chen are good bets to start the Apr. 3 opener at Tampa Bay, perhaps Miguel Gonzalez or Chris Tillman will start the home opener.
The Orioles will take part in three Opening Days: Tampa Bay’s, their own and on Apr. 8 at Boston.
2) April 19 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Thanks to the new schedule, there will be at least one interleague game each day. The Orioles have never played a National League opponent this early in the season, and it’s the first meeting between the teams since 2004 and the first visit to Baltimore by the Dodgers since 2002.
The Orioles host San Diego for two games on May 14-15. In the past, interleague games were generally played in June. Due to Houston’s move to the American, there are 15 teams in each league and the Orioles will play 20 games against the rival league next year.
2013 will be the Orioles’ turn to play the National League West. From Aug. 5-19, the Orioles will visit San Diego, San Francisco and Arizona before hosting Colorado.
3) May 20 vs. New York Yankees
The Orioles play three games at Yankee Stadium in early April, but the Yankees don’t come to call until later in May. New York plays three weeknight games, May 20-22, then three weekend games at Oriole Park on June 28-30. The Yankees play four more games in Baltimore from Sept. 9-12.
The Red Sox, who probably won’t be as big a draw as they were in the past, don’t come to Baltimore until June 13. They play the last three games of the season in Baltimore on Sept. 27-29. Boston also plays a visit from July 26-28.
4) May 29 vs. Washington Nationals
The new schedule eliminates three game home-and-home series with natural rivals, but inaugurates two game home-and-home series. In the past, the Orioles and Nationals played a series in May, usually on Preakness weekend, and then another in June.
In 2013, the Orioles will play two games at Nationals Park on May 27-28 and two more on May 29-30. The teams will see four different starting pitchers.
By the way, the first game at Nationals Park will be on Memorial Day, and as usual, the Orioles won’t be home on any of the three summer holidays: Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day.
In 2015, it will the Orioles turn to play the National League East, and they should again play three game home-and-home series with the Nationals.
5) July 30 vs. Houston Astros
It will be the Astros’ third visit to Baltimore, but their first as an American League team. Houston has had back-to-back 100 loss seasons and is managed by Bo Porter, who last year coached third base for the Nationals. Porter’s third base coach is one Dave Trembley, who managed the Orioles from 2007-10.
After the Astros leave, the Seattle Mariners arrive, and fans can warmly welcome back Robert Andino, who was traded on Tuesday to Seattle.
Perhaps later in the winter, other dates will become prominent, but for now, these look like fun.