Major League Baseball today announced the game times for its master 2012 regular season schedule, which will begin with Japan Opening Series 2012 between the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics on March 28th and 29th. Opening night in the United States, which takes place on Wednesday, April 4th, features the defending World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals visiting the Miami Marlins at 7:05 p.m (ET). The final day of the 2012 regular season is scheduled for Wednesday, October 3rd.
Opening Night in Miami between the Cardinals and Marlins, which marks the start of ESPN's 23rd season televising Major League Baseball, is highlighted by the opening of Marlins Park, the debut of new Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen and new Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, and a pair of former teammates squaring off with their new teams as Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran visits Jose Reyes and the new-look Marlins.
Seven games will be played on Thursday, April 5th, marking the second consecutive season that traditional Opening Day throughout Major League Baseball, excluding special international events, will take place on a Thursday. In addition to 2011, the only other seasons to have started on a Thursday were 1901-1904, 1907, 1912, 1959, 1973-74 and 1976. The first full slate of 15 games will be played on Saturday, April 7th.
ESPN will continue their Opening Week coverage with back-to-back doubleheaders on ESPN2 on Thursday, April 5th and Friday, April 6th. On Thursday, the Boston Red Sox visit the Detroit Tigers at 1:05 p.m. (ET), followed by the Marlins at Cincinnati Reds at 4:05 p.m. (ET) / 3:05 p.m (CT). Friday's coverage includes the San Francisco Giants at Arizona Diamondbacks at 7:10 p.m. (ET) / 4:10 p.m. (PT), followed by the Kansas City Royals visiting the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at 10:05 p.m. (ET) / 7:05 p.m. (PT) in the Angels debut of nine-time All-Star Albert Pujols.
MLB Network will have extensive coverage of Opening Week, featuring the return of its regular season programming lineup of The Rundown, Intentional Talk, MLB Tonight and Quick Pitch with look-ins at live games in progress, previews, highlights and analysis. MLB Network's regular season game telecasts will begin on Thursday, April 5th with the Los Angeles Dodgers' home opener against the San Diego Padres at 7:05 p.m. (ET) / 4:05 p.m. (PT), followed on Friday, April 6th with regional coverage of the 2011 A.L. Champion Texas Rangers' home opener against the Chicago White Sox at 2:05 p.m. (ET) / 1:05 p.m. (CT) and the 2011 A.L. Wild Card Tampa Bay Rays' first home game of 2012 against the 2011 A.L. East Champion New York Yankees at 3:10 p.m. (ET).
Among the other highlights of the 2012 regular season:
- The Milwaukee Brewers open their season against the Cardinals at Miller Park on Friday, April 6th at 4:10 p.m. (ET) / 3:10 p.m. (CT) as the N.L. Central rivals meet for the first time since the 2011 National League Championship Series.
- The Dodgers will host the Padres at Dodger Stadium at 4:10 p.m. (ET) / 1:10 p.m. (PT) on Sunday, April 15th, which is designated as Jackie Robinson Day throughout Major League Baseball.
- The Tigers will open a four-game series against the Rangers at Comerica Park on Thursday, April 19th at 7:05 p.m. (ET) in a rematch of the 2011 American League Championship Series.
- The 16th season of Interleague Play will feature many renewals of past World Series, including Reds-Yankees and Pirates-Tigers (starting May 18th); Mets-Yankees, Phillies-Orioles, Astros-White Sox, Blue Jays-Braves, Tigers-Reds and Rangers-Giants (starting June 8th); Yankees-Braves, Pirates-Orioles, Tigers-Cubs (starting June 11th/12th); Phillies-Blue Jays, Red Sox-Cubs, Royals-Cardinals and White Sox-Dodgers (starting June 15th); Cubs-White Sox, Giants-Angels, Braves-Yankees, Orioles-Mets and Dodgers-Athletics (June 18th/19th); and Cardinals-Royals, Giants-Athletics, Yankees-Mets, Rays-Phillies and Tigers-Pirates (starting June 22nd).
- The 2012 All-Star Game, to be hosted by the Kansas City Royals, is scheduled for Tuesday, July 10th at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.