Royals hit town for Phillies’ odd home opener

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Last time Mike

Schmidt and George Brett were together in a ballpark in Philadelphia,

they were joined by 65,000 fans and riot police riding horses.

It was Game 6 of the 1980 World Series

at old Veterans Stadium. Tug McGraw pumped a fastball past Willie

Wilson, leaped off the mound and waited for Schmidt to run in from third

base to jump in his arms and kick off a wild celebration.

The Phillies beat the Royals to secure their first world championship in their 106th season. Brett watched from the dugout.

On Friday, the two Hall of Famers will

throw out the first pitch when the Phillies open their home schedule

against Kansas City in a rare interleague matchup in April.

“Playing your home opener against an AL team is weird,” Schmidt said in spring training. “Where’s the charm in that?”

It happened already in Cincinnati

where the Reds began the season against the Los Angeles Angels. The

Houston Astros’ shift from the NL to the AL left 15 teams in each

league, meaning there’s an interleague game every night.

That’s strange for fans, and unusual to players.

AL pitchers now have to be ready to

swing bats earlier than usual if their team plays in an NL park where

there’s no designated hitter.

“It’s going to be cold, it’s probably

going to rain and I’ll probably be in the back corner of the box, trying

to work a five-pitch at-bat without swinging,” said Wade Davis, who

starts for the Royals on Friday afternoon. “Hopefully, avoid swinging at


James Shields will go against Cole Hamels on Sunday. At least Shields got a hit off him seven years ago.

“We’re prepared,” he said. “We prepared ourselves in spring training to be able to do this.”

The Royals and Phillies have played

just six regular-season games against each other and six more in the

postseason. The Royals last visited Citizens Bank Park in 2004.

“We ran our spring training like a

National League spring training with our pitchers hitting every single

day so they’re ready to go,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “It breaks up

the monotony a little bit. It’s something different for them. It will

be interesting.”

Both teams lost their first two games

to start the season. The Royals beat the Chicago White Sox on Thursday

afternoon, hopped a plane and will arrive in Philadelphia before the

Phillies, who played at Atlanta.

If the Royals want to know what to

expect from the rabid fans in Philadelphia, they can ask teammate Jeff

Francoeur. The right fielder played a couple season openers against the

Phillies when he was with the Braves.

“I think it’s intriguing,” he said.

“I remember when I looked at our schedule thinking `We’re going to

Philly the second series of the year?’ but I think it’s going to be

pretty cool and it will be a good experience. I know how crazy it can be

there. It’s always fun. I enjoyed that.”

Kyle Kendrick takes the mound for the

Phillies in the series opener. John Lannan makes his Phillies debut on

Saturday. Kendrick enters the season with a spot in the rotation for the

first time since 2010. The right-hander was 11-12 with a 3.90 ERA last

year in 37 games, including 25 starts. Kendrick has shuttled between the

bullpen and the rotation the last two seasons.

The Phillies will be seeking their

first series win when they face the Royals. The season got off to a poor

start with Hamels and Roy Halladay getting roughed up by the Braves in

consecutive games.

“I feel strongly about our team. I

like our team,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “We should be there all

year long, really. When we go on the skids, we’ll come out of it. We’re

going to win our share.”