NEW YORK — With less than a month to go before opening day, Major League Baseball made it official Friday, expanding the playoffs to 10 teams by adding a wild-card to each league.
This is the first change in the postseason format since 1995, when wild cards were added. It creates a one-game wild-card round between the teams with the best records who are not division winners. In addition, there will be no restriction on teams from the same division meeting in the division series.
"This change increases the rewards of a division championship and allows two additional markets to experience playoff baseball each year," commissioner Bud Selig said.
Because of the delay in implementing the change and with the 2012 schedule already drawn up, the format of the division series will change for this year only. The best-of-five series will begin with two games at the lower seeds followed by three home games for the higher seed. The change will reduce travel days.
Darvish impresses in Rangers debut
SURPRISE, Ariz. — Yu Darvish, the Rangers' Japanese import, struck out one during a hitless inning in an intrasquad game. He threw 21 pitches, 11 for strikes, and his fastball was clocked between 93-96 mph.
"My fastball life and the quality are not even close at all to season form," Darvish, set to face the Padres on Wednesday, said through an interpreter.
"I'm glad we don't have to face him in our division or in our league," second baseman Ian Kinsler said.
CUBS back collector: Several Cubs players supported the man who collected Ryan Braun's urine sample, despite the fact his handling of the sample led to Braun's 50-game suspension being overturned.
The legal team for the Brewers outfielder argued the collector, Dino Laurenzi Jr., did not follow procedures specified in baseball's drug agreement, which led to an arbitrator overturning Braun's positive test last week. Laurenzi also is assigned by MLB to collect samples from the Cubs.
"The drug tester that we worked with … we all know him, and he handles his business pretty professionally. I think that everyone in this clubhouse would agree with me," Cubs outfielder Reed Johnson told ESPN Radio 1000 in Chicago. Infielder Jeff Baker also vouched for Laurenzi.
A's: DH Manny Ramirez grounded into a double play and bounced out in an 8-5 loss to the Mariners in the spring opener. Ramirez, who hasn't played since April and faces a 50-game drug suspension, drew a loud mix of boos and cheers before his first at-bat.
Indians: Justin Masterson will start on opening day. The right-hander was the team's most consistent starter last season, going 12-10 with a 3.21 ERA.
Nationals: First baseman Adam LaRoche (sprained ankle and sore left shoulder) and rightfielder Jayson Werth (muscle spasms in his back) likely won't play this weekend.
Pirates: Right-hander A.J. Burnett had surgery for a broken orbital bone near his right eye and will miss 2-3 months.
Red Sox: David Ortiz, a DH for most of his career, will start at first base tonight against Boston College. New manager Bobby Valentine said he wants to see how Ortiz looks there in case he's needed.
Rockies: Left-hander Jamie Moyer, 49, trying to come back after missing last season for Tommy John surgery on his left elbow, gave up one earned run and three hits in two innings of an intrasquad game. He said he felt uncomfortable at first but after a couple of pitches, "It was like getting back on the bike again."