|Regional rivalry matchups like White Sox-Cubs will likely feature a maximum of four games. (Getty Images)|
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The number of games between interleague rivals such as the Yankees and Mets, Cubs and White Sox and Dodgers and Angels will be reduced under Major League Baseball's new schedule format for 2013.
Players union head Michael Weiner said Tuesday that in most instances the rivalry games will be cut from six to either four or three. The new format was caused by next year's move of the Houston Astros to the American League, creating two 15-team circuits and the need for interleague play throughout the season.
"It wasn't fair to have six games against an opponent that other teams in your division didn't," Weiner said Tuesday during a question-and-answer session with the Baseball Writers' Association of America. "The Mets, for example, would say 'Why do we have to play the Yankees six times every single year when some of our division opponents are playing teams that aren't traditionally as strong? We understand we've got to play the Yankees every year. That's OK. Why should we play six?'"
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Teams in a division will play three games each against teams in another division: for example, the NL East vs. the AL Central. The interleague rivalries will be either one three-game series or a home-and-home of two games each, Weiner said.
There will be an exception in years the rivals play the opposite division -- for instance, the Cubs and White Sox would play six times in years the NL Central plays the AL Central.
Baseball's new labor contract says teams will play up to 20 interleague games a year. Weiner says the total is likely to be close to the maximum.
"It may be that you can come up with a more workable schedule by moving up to the higher end of the interleague play range as opposed to the lower end," he said. "So it's not a question that 19 or 20 is much better than 18 in terms of interleague play, it's a question of how to put the pieces of the puzzle together."
A draft schedule has been given to the union, which is studying it before MLB finalizes it ahead of an anticipated September release.
Because of the two 15-team leagues, two clubs will have to open and close with interleague games.
"That's not a plus of the system, but the other plusses of the system, going to 15 and 15, were so overwhelming that we live with that," Weiner said.
Interleague games will be kept to a minimum in the final four-to-six weeks of the regular season.
"A team could have two interleague series in September, but they wouldn't have two away interleague series, so that they wouldn't either have to add a DH or lose their DH for more than three games," he said.