Reds set for new installment of Interleague Play

Reds set for new installment of Interleague Play

Reds set for new installment of Interleague Play
NEW YORK -- For the 16th and final time as it's currently constructed, Interleague Play will begin for the Reds on Friday.

And it won't begin just anywhere. In a scheduling quirk after Cincinnati completes a two-game stop at Citi Field against the Mets, the club will head from Queens to the Bronx for three games versus the Yankees and their first-ever visit to the new incarnation of Yankee Stadium.

This will be the second meeting in two years for the Reds and Yankees. Last season, New York took two of three games at Great American Ball Park.

The era of a part of the schedule being set aside for Interleague action will end in 2013, when the Astros move to the American League and create balanced leagues of 15 clubs each. That means there will be at least one Interleague matchup on the Major League schedule every series during the season.

2012 INTERLEAGUE PLAY PREVIEW
Watch all the Interleague action on MLB.TV
All-time club Interleague records
All-time Interleague leaderboard

For this year, there is a departure from the past, when one division was often scheduled against another. The Reds only have the Yankees from the AL East, and after that, it's two meetings against the regional rival Indians for the 2012 installment of the Ohio Cup, plus home series versus the Tigers and Twins.

According to reports, MLB is planning to eliminate having regional rivals play six Interleague games per season. That means this is likely the last home-and-home setup for Cincinnati and Cleveland, which will probably play just three games next year.

Since taking over as manager of the Reds in 2008, Dusty Baker has been big on not overlooking AL clubs, knowing a good record could play a role in the team's overall chances in the National League Central and Wild Card.

Players to watch
3B Scott Rolen, (.294, 42 HR, 143 RBIs): The veteran has played 211 games over his career in Interleague Play since 1997. However, his status is in question, as he is currently on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left shoulder.
2B Brandon Phillips, (.304, 15 HR, 56 RBIs): Phillips had three homers and 10 RBIs last season against the AL. In 35 games versus his ex-club, the Indians, he has particularly feasted, with a .331 average, seven homers and 23 RBIs.
RHP Bronson Arroyo, (8-14, 5.60 ERA): One AL player that has really done damage against Arroyo has been Cleveland's Shin-Soo Choo, who is 6-for-12 with four home runs lifetime against him. Choo was injured last season and missed both series against the Reds.
Last year's Interleague slate was debilitating for the Reds, as they went 6-12 against the AL.

When playing at New York and Cleveland, the Reds will get to employ the designated hitter. Jonny Gomes had received the majority of DH at-bats in recent seasons, but now that he is elsewhere, the Reds have a few options. They could turn to left fielder Ryan Ludwick, who has struggled this season. There is also Miguel Cairo, and depending on the matchup, perhaps rookie lefty hitter Mike Costanzo.

Last year: The Reds were 6-12 against the AL in 2011, and only won one of six series -- at Tampa Bay.

All time: Since Interleague Play began in 1997, the Reds are 97-123, and have had winning records against the AL in only five of the past 15 seasons. However, two of them came under Baker in 2008 and '10.

at Yankees, May 18-20: 5-4. Last season, the Reds dropped two of three in a series that included a doubleheader as a result of a rainout. The last time Cincinnati played in the Bronx was 2008, when it took two of three. Besides seeing the venerable Andy Pettitte out of retirement, Sunday's projected matchup of Johnny Cueto versus CC Sabathia should be scintillating.

vs. Tigers, June 8-10: 7-8. This will be the Tigers' first trip to Great American Ball Park, and their first to Cincinnati since 2001. The Reds will certainly be familiar with Detroit first baseman Prince Fielder, who was with the rival Brewers for several seasons.

vs. Indians, June 12-14, at Indians June 18-20: 36-39. Cleveland took the season series from the Reds for the first time since 2005 after it swept at home and took two of three in Cincinnati to claim the Ohio Cup trophy for the first time since it returned in 2008.

vs. Twins, June 22-24: 7-8. These two teams should be vastly unfamiliar with each other, since this will be their first regular-season meeting since 2001.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.