In 2014, the Pirates will once again be Opening Day hosts -- welcoming the Cubs to PNC Park on March 31 -- and be challenged by a 20-game Interleague schedule featuring the loaded American League East.
Next season's pennant fight will pick up right where this one apparently will leave off: The Bucs will have 13 meetings in April with the Cardinals and the Reds, kicking off with an April 4-6 set at PNC Park. The Reds will visit for four games on April 21-24.
The Pirates' first 26 games will be within the National League Central, and they will have met each division team before venturing out for their first Interleague forays. Pittsburgh will play a two-game set in Baltimore on April 29-30, then return home to host Toronto in a three-game series May 2-4.
The early-season schedule represents a significant departure from those of the past two seasons, when the Pirates stumbled out of the gate on West Coast trips that forced them to play catch-up from the get-go. After opening the 2012 season at home, Pittsburgh went 2-4 in Los Angeles and Arizona; in 2011, also after a season-opening series at home, the Bucs went 3-6 at those two stops plus San Francisco.
The Pirates' initial West Coast swing of 2014 will not be until May 29, when they will open a three-game set in Dodger Stadium.
Pittsburgh will make a May 16-18 visit to the Bronx to meet the Yankees. The other high-profile AL East team, the Red Sox, will make a late-season (Sept. 16-18) sojourn to PNC Park.
That visit by the Red Sox will kick off a difficult 13-game stretch to the wire, including a season-wrapping road trip to Atlanta for four and to Cincinnati for three. This means the '14 Pirates will be ending the season in the same place these '13 Bucs are.
The Pirates will also recreate this season's home-and-home two-game sets with the Tigers, hosting the AL Central powerhouses on Aug. 11-12 and visiting Detroit on Aug. 13-14.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer.