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MLB

Interleague matchup on '13Opening Day schedule

| Sunday, March 31, 2013, 7:45 p.m.
Angels left fielder Josh Hamilton looks on from the dugout while playing the Padres during the second inning of a spring training game in March 2013 in Peoria, Ariz.

The Kansas City Royals have been absent from the playoffs since the day Billy Butler was born. They've barely had a winning season in the last two decades. They've often lost 100 games in a year.

And yet, buoyed by the best record in spring training, hope abounds — for the Royals, for most everybody putting on a big league uniform.

“There's no reason we shouldn't be better,” said Butler, the Royals' All-Star slugger. “How much better that is? I'm not a mind reader. I'm not a projector.”

Ah, Opening Day.

A dozen games were set for Monday across the majors. Star pitchers Justin Verlander, Stephen Strasburg and Adam Wainwright try to get off to great starts, old rivalries are renewed at Yankee Stadium and Dodger Stadium, and a quirky interleague schedule unfolds.

No snow is in the forecast for any ballpark on April Fools' Day, but freezing temperatures are expected at Target Field in Minnesota when Verlander and the AL champion Tigers take on the Twins.

“It's going to be cold, but I've pitched in that kind of weather before,” Verlander said. “I don't think about it. It's always cold in Detroit on Opening Day.”

Long the site of baseball's traditional opener, Cincinnati is going to have a new look Monday. That's when Josh Hamilton and his new Los Angeles Angels teammates visit Cincinnati in the first interleague matchup this season.

The Houston Astros' move left 15 teams in each league, meaning an American League vs. National League matchup most every day this season.

“It is very strange,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

On both coasts, there is a very familiar look: Red Sox-Yankees and Giants-Dodgers.

Mariano Rivera is set for his final Opening Day when the banged-up Yankees host Boston. The New York closer is among several big names who missed most or even all of last year; Troy Tulowitzki, Victor Martinez and John Lackey are in that group.

Injured stars Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira won't be in pinstripes for the first pitch.

“It's still the Yankees, it's still going to be a good lineup,” Boston starter Jon Lester said Sunday. “They're missing a few of their big guys but anybody that fills in for them, it's like what I said, they're going to put professional at-bats together and still — it's not going to be a walk in the park.”

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