A look at what’s happening around the majors today:
Baseball may be embarking on a smaller regular-season schedule, but the postseason just got bigger.
Major League Baseball and the players’ union agreed Thursday to an expanded playoff structure that includes 16 teams instead of the usual 10. Since 16 of 30 teams will make the postseason, there’s a very good chance that teams with a losing record will be included.
It’s just another quirk in a season that’s sure to be full of them.
”It’s such a unique season, why not try a little something different and make it as exciting as possible,” Colorado shortstop Trevor Story said. ”I know it’s going to be such a sprint with the 60-game season; adding more playoff teams will just add to the fire and the excitement and the fandom around the game. Anything can happen in a 60-game season. I’m all for it.”
Sixteen of the 30 teams will advance to a best-of-three first round: the first- and second-place teams in every division and the next two clubs by winning percentage in each league. Those winners move on to the best-of-five Division Series, where the usual format resumes. The final four teams are in best-of-seven League Championship Series, and the pennant winners meet in the best-of-seven World Series.
BRAND NEW HOME
The Texas Rangers officially open Globe Life Field, their new $1.2 billion stadium with a retractable roof. And they’ll do it with the same starting pitcher from the finale in the old stadium across the street.
Lance Lynn faces the Colorado Rockies in his first opening day, getting the nod ahead of returning All-Star lefty Mike Minor and Corey Kluber, the two-time AL Cy Young winner acquired in a December trade from Cleveland. Lynn, who had 246 strikeouts last season, sent the Rangers out of the old stadium with a 6-1 win over the New York Yankees.
While the building will be closed to the public, there will be a few spectators, including the parents and fiance of Rockies rookie outfielder Sam Hilliard, who grew up 10-15 minutes from the Rangers ballparks. Hilliard’s father was diagnosed two years ago with ALS and will get to see his son’s first opening day game in the majors and first big league game in Texas.
MLB also gave the Rangers permission for about 150 team employees to watch the stadium’s first game from a section above right field near their offices.
Dusty Baker believes the Astros sign-stealing scandal is old news. It remains to be seen if the rest of baseball agrees.
”It’s over now,” Houston’s new manager said earlier in camp. ”I hope we don’t have to keep rehashing that over and over throughout the course of the year. It’s behind us. I’d like to leave it behind us.”
In Houston’s final summer camp tuneup, three of its stars – Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and George Springer – were hit by pitches in a game at Kansas City.
The Astros begin their season at home against the Seattle Mariners. The franchise spent the offseason dealing with the sign-stealing scandal that cost manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow their jobs. The 71-year-old Baker was hired to replaces Hinch.
MADBUM WITH D-BACKS
It’s still a little strange to see big left-hander Madison Bumgarner in a Diamondbacks uniform.
The longtime San Francisco Giants ace is scheduled to make his first start with Arizona when it travels to face the San Diego Padres. Bumgarner signed an $85 million, five-year deal with the D-backs during the offseason after spending 11 years in San Francisco.
He helped the Giants win three World Series titles and he was the 2014 World Series MVP
Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw was put on the injured list just hours before he was scheduled to make his ninth opening start of his career against the San Francisco Giants.
Manager Dave Roberts said Kershaw’s back stiffened up in a weight room workout two days ago. The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner was replaced by 22-year-old Dustin May. Roberts said Kershaw might be able to return as early as the team’s series against the Diamondbacks that begins July 30.
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