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Toronto's 2014 schedule opens with test in St. Pete

Blue Jays set to face Yankees in season's first game at Rogers Centre on April 4

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays will open their 2014 season on the road with a four-game series against division rival Tampa Bay on March 31.

Major League Baseball released its tentative schedule for next year on Tuesday afternoon. For Toronto, it includes a Canada Day matchup at home vs. Milwaukee and road trips through several National League cities including Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Cincinnati.

The opening four-game set will give the Blue Jays an opportunity to start the season by overcoming their well-documented issues at Tropicana Field. Toronto hasn't won a series in St. Petersburg since April 2007 and has posted a 16-44 record over that span of 19 road trips.

The Blue Jays will aim to set the tone for a year in which the club hopes to makes its disappointing record in 2013 a distant memory. The schedule also includes Interleague matchups at Rogers Centre against the Phillies, Cardinals and Cubs.

Following the four games in Florida, the Blue Jays will head north of the border for their home opener against the Yankees on April 4. The weekend affair is expected to be a highly anticipated series and will be followed by three games against the Astros before the club goes back on the road.

The most difficult stretch of games will likely come during the month of July, as the Blue Jays are scheduled to play 17 of their 26 games away from home. Those road series will include a West Coast swing through Oakland and Los Angeles, before finishing the month with games in New York, Boston and Houston.

Toronto will be on the road for most of the major holidays except Canada Day, for the first of a two-game set against the Brewers. It marks the fourth consecutive season that the Blue Jays will have a home game to commemorate the federal statutory holiday.

Interleague Play will once again take place throughout the season following Major League Baseball's decision to put Houston in the American League. The Blue Jays' first game against the National League will take place on May 2 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, and that series will be immediately followed by two games at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

September will prove to be a crucial month if the Blue Jays are going to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 1993. Toronto has 19 of its 26 games scheduled against American League East rivals, including the season finale at home against the Orioles on Sept. 28.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB.

Toronto Blue Jays