When the Reds start their Interleague schedule against the Indians on Friday at Progressive Field, many fans will think about a regional rivalry, or even the Ohio Cup that is up for grabs. Not manager Dusty Baker. He views Interleague Play as a big opportunity for his competitive Reds team to stay at or near the top of the National League Central. The Reds have a total of 18 Interleague games this summer, including six against Cleveland.
"Those are very important games," Baker said. "That's more than a 10th of the season. What happens if you don't play well in Interleague Play? What happens if you play great in Interleague Play?" Besides playing the Indians this weekend and June 25-27 at Great American Ball Park, the Reds host the Royals on June 11-13. On the road, they will head to the West Coast to play Ken Griffey Jr. and the Mariners on June 18-20 and the A's from June 21-23. If the Reds want to stay in contention, they will have to beat the teams they're supposed to beat. All of their Interleague opponents should qualify, since none of them have records above .500.
The Seattle series will mark the first time the Reds have a chance to play against former star Griffey. Otherwise, the Reds will be seeing ballparks they generally don't see too often. They last played at both Seattle and Oakland in 2007. "I enjoy it," Reds first baseman Joey Votto said. "We get to go to Seattle and Oakland this year, which will be nice. And I got to go home to Toronto twice [the previous two seasons]. That really worked out for me. But in general, I like it. I think it's good." Cincinnati has traditionally not performed well against the American League and owns an 83-104 record since Interleague action began in 1997. They did have a 9-6 record in 2008, which was one of only three years they had a winning record against the AL. Their record was 6-9 in 2009. "I've never been a fan," Reds third baseman Scott Rolen said. "I was in the Major Leagues before Interleague games and I wish it would have stayed the way it was. It's OK for some of the rivalries, like in New York, but the travel is bad for most teams and the schedule isn't fair, with not everyone in your division playing the same teams. I don't like it. I think it still should just be your league against the other league in the World Series at the end of the season." With the excitement and attention Interleague Play brings to the league, Rolen's wish isn't likely to come true. One benefit the Reds will get this weekend and at Seattle and Oakland is the chance to use a designated hitter. Last year, Jonny Gomes was employed as the DH in all nine games at AL parks and that's likely to be the case this time around. Gomes batted .344 (11-for-32) as DH with three home runs, seven RBIs and five runs scored. It was the first time the Reds went through Interleague playing using only one DH.
Reds schedule, results against AL clubs
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.