When MLB released its 2013 schedule last September, there were a couple of major changes.
With the Houston Astros moving to the American League West, each division in both leagues now has five teams. As a result, each team will play 76 games (19 each) against division opponents, 66 (six or seven each) against non-division league teams and 20 against interleague foes.
Another wrinkle is that there will be at least one interleague game every day of the season.
For various reasons, some MLB teams face more grueling schedules than others. Here are four teams that may not be smiling at the scheduling gurus.
The Washington Nationals will open the 2013 season in defense of their NL East title.
They'll start with an absolutely brutal first month.
The Nationals start off easy enough, facing the Miami Marlins at home. However, the rest of the month features two series each against the NL Central-winning Cincinnati Reds and the rival Atlanta Braves. Throw in a series against the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox as well.
The Nats close out the 2013 season on the road against the Cardinals and the much-improved Arizona Diamondbacks.
For a team competing in a division in which the Phillies and Braves will be breathing down its neck, Washington will have to suck it up in a hostile environment.
The Tampa Bay Rays are another team facing a tough start to the 2013 season.
Only 12 of their 27 games in April are at home, with four-game road series against the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox. Two three-game road series against the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers don't help, either.
If the beginning of the year wasn't bad enough, the Rays have to close out the season on the road with three-game series against the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays.
The Rays play 17 of their final 28 games on the road in the month of September.
The Cincinnati Reds will defend their NL Central title with a rather daunting schedule in 2013.
The Reds open with a six-game homestand against Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujos and the Los Angeles Angels before taking on the NL East champ Washington Nationals.
The Reds play 16 of their 27 games on the road in May and another 17 of 27 games on the road in July.
Sixteen of the 20 interleague games the Reds play in 2013 are against AL West opponents. Three of those teams finished above .500 last year, and the other AL West team, the Seattle Mariners, will feature a much-improved offense.
The Reds will control their destiny in the month of September, with 16 of 26 games coming against NL Central teams.
The Pittsburgh Pirates will be trying to put an end to their streak of 20 consecutive losing seasons. However, they'll be doing it with a very difficult schedule.
Of the Pirates' 20 interleague games, 16 are against AL West teams. In August, they'll go through a brutal stretch, playing 13 of 16 games on the road with series at Colorado, St. Louis, San Diego and San Francisco.
To end the season, the Pirates play nine straight games against NL Central foes, six against the Cincinnati Reds.