HOUSTON — Add Cubs manager Dale Sveum to the list of baseball people looking quizzically at a 2013 schedule filled with oddities to accommodate the realigned 15-team-league format.
From strange, to irritating, to “kind of unique and cool,” the schedule seemed to have a little bit of everything from Sveum’s perspective.
“It’s an interesting schedule,” he said, “no doubt about it.”
The strange: The Cubs have a two-game road trip to Anaheim to face the Los Angeles Angels in June, with days off on both sides of that series and no other stops scheduled for the trip. They also have a two-game home series against St. Louis May 7-8 with days off on both sides of that series.
The irritating: The Cubs have only one day off from April 3 through May 5, at one point playing 20 games in 20 days at the time in the season when days off are most needed because pitching staffs haven’t been fully stretched out yet.
“It’s going to be a grind in April to figure out the pitching staff with no days off,” he said. “Guys aren’t built up to do things and you’re probably going to have to make some decisions like whether you’re going to carry eight pitchers in the bullpen and things like that.
“It’s very difficult to get your pitching ready for those kind of innings and those pitch counts that early.”
The cool: The natural-rivalry change in the interleague portion of the schedule this year means the Cubs-Sox pair of series has been condensed into a four-day stretch that includes two games at U.S. Cellular Field (May 27-28) immediately followed by two at Wrigley Field (May 29-30).
“That’s one thing about it that’s kind of unique and cool,” he said.
Other schedule highlights:
–The Cubs open the season April 1 at Pittsburgh to start a six-game trip.
–The home opener is May 8 against Milwaukee, with San Francisco and Texas also scheduled for that opening homestand.
–The Cubs make their first-ever trip to Oakland (July 2-4) during a trip that also includes their second trip to Seattle in four seasons.
–The interleague schedule also includes two series against the Angels (including another two-gamer July 9-10) and a June 21-23 home series against the realigned Houston Astros.
–Despite the scheduling quirk that assures interleague play throughout the baseball schedule, the Cubs have interleague games in each of the first four months of the season but none after that.
— For the first time, the Cubs get exactly three home series and three road series against each division opponent with the uniform divisions.
— Seven of their final eight series are against division opponents.
— They finish the season with 14 of their final 20 games on the road, including the last three in St. Louis – one of three one-series road trips (also at Washington May 10-12 and that June series against the Angels).