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On the calendar: Astros' AL inaugural will open MLB season

The NHL still can't figure out its deal but here's better news: The countdown to pitchers and catchers reporting is under 45 days and MLB spent Thursday afternoon even announcing television details of season openers that are now less than three months away.

StrosWhat's now become a traditional Sunday night opener on ESPN will take on a new look this season as instead of a traditional big-market game, the network will show the Houston Astros' first contest as an American League club when they host the Texas Rangers on March 31 at 8 p.m.

The Astros' move to the AL West this year marks the first league change since Milwaukee went to the National League in 1998 and thus necessitates interleague play on every day of the schedule. The team has already unveiled new uniforms and a new logo (above).

ESPN/ESPN2 will show four games on Monday, April 1 featuring the last seven World Series champions. The schedule features Boston at the New York Yankees (1 p.m.), San Francisco at Los Angeles (4 p.m.), Philadelphia at Atlanta (7 p.m.) and St. Louis at Arizona (10 p.m.).

The Toronto Blue Jays' eagerly anticipated opener is Tuesday, April 2 at 7:05 in Rogers Center against the new-look Cleveland Indians, who will be led by Terry Francona and officially announced the signing of free agent Nick Swisher on Thursday.

---Mike Harrington

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About Inside Pitch

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has covered the Buffalo Bisons since 1992 and Major League Baseball since 1995. A member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Harrington has reported on more than 30 MLB postseason series — including every game of the World Series in this century — and all three of the Bisons' championship runs in their modern era. He is a connoisseur of the famous Stadium Mustard at Cleveland's Progressive Field.

@BNHarrington |

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered the Bisons for The Buffalo News since 2002. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz |