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With the 2016 regular season winding down in Major League Baseball and the pennant races heating up, MLB gave fans a glimpse into the future with the release of the 2017 schedule. It all begins with three games lined up on the first Sunday of the year (April 2).

ESPN will televise an Opening Day tripleheader with the first three games of the season. Two of those games are already locked in with the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays in one game and the San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks in another. The third game will be to be determined, which is likely to allow ESPN the option to pick up a World Series winner if not among the four teams already chosen. A team from the central time zone would be ideal given the east and west coasts are already covered, so you can probably expect ESPN to be pulling really hard for the Cubs to win it all this season.

The Cubs open the season in St. Louis against the Cardinals. If that’s not your ESPN Sunday Night opener, or at least included in the triple-header, I would be stunned. That would be one stacked Opening Day lineup for The Mothership.

The real Opening Day will see 13 games played the next day, including one interleague matchup between the Boston Red Sox and the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cincinnati Reds will continue to open the season at home with their usual festivities, and they will do so for a second straight year against the Philadelphia Phillies. The first day in which every MLB team will be in action will be on Wednesday, April 5.

Love it or hate it, interleague is here to stay for a 20th season (yikes, that many years already? I’m old). The 2017 season figures to have some big matchups to get fans excited though. The division rotation features the AL East taking on the NL Central, serving up some good Cubs and Cardinals vs. Yankees and Red Sox storylines to follow. We also get the AL West taking on the NL East, which brings the possibility of Mike Trout and the Angels squaring off with Bryce Harper and the Nationals. We just have to wait until mid-August for that particular showdown in the nation’s capital.

  • AL East vs. NL Central
  • AL Central vs. NL West
  • AL West vs. NL East

The 2017 regular season is scheduled to wrap up on Sunday, October 1. A total of 12 division games will be played that day. Some other highlights:

  • Baseball will continue to honor Jackie Robinson with Jackie Robinson Day on Saturday, April 15. It will mark the 70th anniversary of Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball.
  • The All-Star game in Miami is scheduled for July 17.
  • The MLB Draft is set for Monday, June 12.
  • The Atlanta Braves play their home opener in their new stadium on April 14 against the San Diego Padres.

[MLB]

About Kevin McGuire

Contributor to NBCSports.com's College Football Talk, Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Host of the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher Radio and iHeart Radio. FWAA member and Philadelphia-area resident.