Red Sox Get to See Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg in Interleague Play, But Competing With National League Has Drawbacks, Too


Red Sox Get to See Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg in Interleague Play, But Competing With National League Has Drawbacks, TooIt was good to see former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon showing off his Phillies home red pinstripes, even if his results favored his new team instead of his old.

That's what is unique about the second to last week in May and pretty much all of June. It is a chance to watch the Red Sox play an opponent different from the Rays, Yankees, Blue Jays, Orioles and other American League teams.

The old warehouse in right field at Camden Yards in Baltimore is a common sight, and those catwalks in Tampa Bay are literally "in the way." That's why it's nice to see the ivy-covered wall in the outfield at Wrigley Field in Chicago or the Brewers mascot zipping down the slide in left field after Milwaukee hits a home run.

Interleague also offers the chance for some of baseball's best players to face each other more often. For the Red Sox, that means the Washington Nationals at Fenway Park in a weekend series from June 8-10. The Nationals have two young phenoms in pitcher Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.

Harper has been the talk of baseball since he was called up from Triple-A Syracuse and made his major league debut on April 28 against the Dodgers. He will take his swings against the Red Sox in just about three weeks.

The Sox will also play the new-look Miami Marlins, who have a brand-new ballpark and a roster stacked with free agent signees such as Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell.

But not all parts of interleague play are great. The most obvious drawback is that, when American League teams visit National League parks, they lose the benefit of the designated hitter.

American League managers are faced with potential game-changing decisions, like the ones Bobby Valentine dealt with when deciding whether to play David Ortiz and where Adrian Gonzalez would have to go with Ortiz in the lineup.

American League pitchers also can get extra trouble from interleague situations. They have enough medical concerns with their shoulders, backs, elbows, hands and arms. When they're forced to bat in National League parks, they are more prone to injury in the batter's box or on the basepaths.

Take Clay Buchholz, for example. During a game against the Giants in San Francisco in 2010, Buchholz hyperextended his left knee advancing to second base after recording his first major league hit, a single. He was sidelined for about a month of the season.

Remember when Bartolo Colon hurt his back swinging for the fences against the Phillies in 2008? And wasn't it somewhat humorous to see Daisuke Matsuzaka taking his cuts at the plate?

Interleague play has its pluses and minuses. Seeing games played at the National League's beautiful and unique ballparks, and watching its marquee players season-round, is enjoyable.

But, given the loss of the designated hitter and the fear of American League pitchers injuring themselves, interleague is fine for the time it lasts. 

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