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Reds to host first interleague opening day

NEW YORK -- One of baseball's traditional home openers will have an innovative twist next season.

The Cincinnati Reds will host the Los Angeles Angels on April 1, becoming the first teams to start their seasons with an interleague matchup.

"It's a little strange, but Anaheim has a lot of big-name guys," Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo said. "It'll be Albert Pujols coming back for the first time. It's a nice mix for us. It's strange, but I'd rather do that than open with Milwaukee or someone in our division we see all the time."

The Reds, the first professional team, celebrate opening day with a parade and have opened all but four seasons at home: 1885, 1888, 1966 and 1990, according to STATS LLC.

"The tradition is still here. We're still opening here," Cincinnati outfielder Jay Bruce said. "We've still got that going for us."

Major League Baseball's 2013 preliminary schedule, announced Wednesday, includes several format changes caused by the shift of the Houston Astros to the American League. A National League franchise for its first 51 seasons, the Astros start AL play on April 2 when they host cross-state rival Texas.

Houston moves from the NL Central to the AL West, creating six divisions of five teams each. Under a move announced last November, the Astros will become only the second team since 1900 to switch leagues, following Milwaukee's entry to the NL for the 1998 season.

Because there will be 15 teams in each major league for the first time, interleague play is necessary nearly every day. Since its inception in 1997, interleague play had been concentrated mostly during periods in late May and June.

Eleven of the 15 series on the final weekend of the regular season, Sept. 27-29, will involve division rivalries. The exceptions have the Yankees at Houston, Milwaukee at the Mets, Detroit at Miami and Washington at Arizona.

MLB is abandoning its two-year experiment with midweek openers, reverting to a Sunday night start in a nationally televised game on ESPN that will be determined later.

In another shift, the New York Yankees and Mets for now are slated to open at home on the same day for the first time, with Boston visiting the Bronx on April 1 and San Diego playing in Queens. ESPN could move Red Sox-Yankees to the March 31 Sunday night slot.

"I think it's kind of cool," Mets third baseman David Wright said.

In areas with two teams, MLB generally tries to schedule only one club home at any time.

"Great for baseball to have all of New York watching their favorite teams play at home that day," Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said.