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With just a little over a week before the earliest Opening Day in the history of baseball, this spring training has showed us fans we are in for one of the most exciting seasons in years.

As a bettor, and living in Las Vegas, I have seen the sportsbooks filled with MLB fans and gamblers willing to wager on exhibition play. Starting the week four of the AL’s highest-touted teams, the Astros, Red Sox, Indians, and Yankees, lead in the standings. Normally, in spring training we don’t see the regular-season favorites doing so.

The NL has the Brewers, Marlins, Cubs, and Padres leading the way. While Chicago and Milwaukee are very strong teams, Miami and San Diego are not forecast to do very well.

Unlike like the other pro sports we love, like the NFL and NBA, there is usually a smoother transition for a newly acquired MLB player to produce.

This is due to a player fitting in and learning new schemes and playbooks in football and basketball. In baseball, “just insert player here” and he’s ready to go. We haven’t seen too many surprises thus far.

For Opening Day on March 29, all 30 teams will be in action. Thus far six games have set starting matchups.

The Cubs send (L) Jon Lester up against the Marlins’ (R) Jose Urena. The Pirates have (R) Ivan Nova on the mound against the Tigers’ (R) Jordan Zimmerman. In-state rivals, the Astros have (R) Justin Verlander on the bump against Rangers’ (L) Cole Hamels. The Brewers put (R) Chase Anderson on the hill against the Padres’ (L) Clayton Richard. The White Sox have (R) James Shields against the Royals’ (L) Danny Duffy. And in a marquee matchup of strong pitchers, the Giants have (L) Madison Bumgarner firing against the Dodgers’ (L) Clayton Kershaw.

With the start of every season there is always talk about rivalries. There is no bigger one in all of pro sports than Yankees/Red Sox. When the Yankees acquired Babe Ruth for $125,000 from the Red Sox in 1920, the New York/Boston hatred began. Prior to the trade, Boston won five World Series and New York had none. Since 1920, the Yankees have taken 27 Fall Classics, compared to just three for the Red Sox.

From Bucky Dent to Aaron Boone, all New York Yankees are hated by most of New England, while New York fans are known to check two box scores each day – if NY wins and if the BoSox lose. This year is no different. Both are touted to win over 90 games (Red Sox 91, Yankees 94).

While I give Boston an edge in pitching, New York has just about the most-feared lineup in the AL. It’s going to be an enjoyable ride this campaign as both slug it out for the coveted AL East Title.

Starting next column, I will have my top-releases for you each week. As a multi-time MLB handicapping champion, I look forward to sharing my best-bets with you.

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