Rather than ease into the 2002 season, the Orioles will start off with the American League-champion New York Yankees on April 1 as part of a nine-game, 10-day homestand.
And then it gets rough.
In keeping with a change in the interleague format, the Orioles will face four teams in the National League West rather than competing against the East, according to the schedule released yesterday. That means additional cross-country travel, and additional challenges for a team that hasn't posted a winning record since 1997.
The Orioles will play three games on the road against the World Series-champion Arizona Diamondbacks and three more against Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants. The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres will make their first visits to Camden Yards.
This arrangement excludes the other West team, the Colorado Rockies. With Major League Baseball wanting to maintain regional rivalries, the Orioles will continue a home-and-home series with the Philadelphia Phillies - making it possible for third baseman Scott Rolen to come to Baltimore without a trade here.
"It doesn't bother me. I look forward to seeing other teams in the West, and other cities," manager Mike Hargrove said.
"When they started interleague play, the one thing I heard was fans commenting on how they'd like to see other teams come in. I think this is a case where Major League Baseball listened to what the fans wanted."
The interleague portion of the schedule begins with the Dodgers' arrival at Camden Yards on June 7 and continues with the Padres June 10-12. The Orioles then visit Philadelphia, Arizona and San Francisco in succession.
The Orioles also will close the regular season at home against the Yankees, playing their final game Sept. 29. The Yankees, bolstered by this week's free-agent signing of first baseman Jason Giambi, also visit Camden Yards June 25-27.
Because of another unbalanced schedule, the Orioles again will play host to and visit the AL Central teams only once during the season. The division could become the most competitive in baseball with the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins - assuming they dodge contraction - expected to contend.
The first half concludes July 7 in Texas before the three-day All-Star break, with the Orioles resuming play at home against Oakland.
Nine games at Camden Yards to open the season matches the Orioles' longest homestand. They'll also be home Aug. 16-25 against Detroit, Tampa Bay and Toronto.