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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, April 4, 2012 at 10:38 PM

You can tell that Major League Baseball wanted to grab some headlines right out of the gate this year. They moved ESPN season opener to Wednesday from Sunday so as not to conflict with a big day in the NBA or the Women’s Final Four. They moved the traditional opening Monday to Thursday so as not to conflict the men’s championship in college hoops. And, they scheduled some big time series for the first weekend so that the media would HAVE to cover the sport like a blanket.

Among the marquee matchups this weekend:

BOSTON AT DETROIT (Thursday, Saturday, Sunday)

The Bobby Valentine era begins in Boston at the same time the Prince Fielder era begins in Detroit. Both of these teams are projected to make the playoffs this season (which have now been expanded to five teams per league). Both teams are likely to make headlines right out of the gate because expectations are so high. It would almost be a cliché to start with Red Sox/Yankees. Everyone’s kind of tired of that being shoved down our throats anyway. Boston/Detroit accomplishes the same BANG while saving Sox/Yanks for later.

NY YANKEES AT TAMPA BAY (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)

The two representatives from baseball’s best division in last year’s playoffs get to renew their grudge battle right out of the gate. Many are expecting Tampa Bay to regress this season…but that’s the case every year. Supposedly they don’t have the resources to be annual contenders. Yet, thanks to brains and plenty of young talent, they typically are. The American League is going to have a playoff feel this weekend simply from these two series alone. The biggest media magnets are involved in matchups that matter!

SAN FRANCISCO AT ARIZONA (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)

Arizona shocked the world with a 94-win season in 2011, yet they’re not currently the favorite in the NL West because so many see last year as a fluke. San Francisco’s got great pitching…and everyone still thinks of them as a playoff team even if they didn’t reach the postseason last year. What a great way for one of these teams to set the tone for 2012. It can be hard for baseball fans to think of a power base in the sport residing out West. Philadelphia is still the team to beat in the NL. Many experts believe it’s SF and Arizona just below them in terms of team power ratings.

ST. LOUIS AT MILWAUKEE (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)

The NL Central is truly up for grabs this year because these top contenders from last year both lost sluggers. Can either reach 90 wins this year? The betting markets don’t project any team in the Central to win that many. We’re anxious to see which of these teams plays this weekend like they have a point to make to the baseball world…and which believes the naysayers about inevitable doom.

Those four listed games will have big TV presences this weekend between the MLB Network, Fox, and TBS. Note also that defending American League champion Texas will be on ESPN Sunday Night against the Chicago White Sox.

Contenders who didn’t quite earn the limelight with marquee matchups this weekend are Philadelphia (who opens in Pittsburgh), Cincinnati (who hosts Miami), and the Los Angeles Angels (hosting Kansas City).

The sport is trying to make a splash this weekend…and JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK will DEFINITELY make a splash with big play winners each and every day. The first somewhat full day of baseball action seems like the perfect time to review the exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach that sets us apart from the rest of the industry.

*NETWORK has SCOUTS and SOURCES in all 30 Major League cities who get us the lowdown on recent developments. We know what happened during Spring Training. We know who’s in shape and who’s still a week or two behind schedule. We know which pitchers are already in regular season form, and which are still trying to fix their release points and other mechanics. We can’t tell you how much this stuff matters in APRIL, particularly in the first week of the season.

*NETWORK has STAT HANDICAPPERS who literally live for this sport. They eat, drink, and sleep baseball 12 months of the year. They’ve been working around the clock the past several days to make sure Jim Hurley is up to speed on the true statistical ramifications of all the offseason personnel changes. There have been some high profile moves this year. Are they all going to work? Is any hitter moving to a park that’s going to kill his production? Is any pitcher about to dominate because of better throwing conditions? Oddsmakers will get this figured out by late May or early June. JIM HURLEY knows now!

*NETWORK has COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS with state-of-the-art prediction software that accounts for every variable…then turns run projections into moneyline equivalents. We know how many “cents” everything is worth in terms of how you bet baseball in Las Vegas. And, we know how all the parts of the engine interact to win on the baseball field. There are a lot of Johnny-come-latelies to this approach in baseball. JIM HURLEY basically invented it.

*NETWORK has WISE GUY SOURCES in Las Vegas and offshore that let us know what the sharps are doing before they’re going to do it. That’s particularly important early in a baseball season because line movement can be very big in certain games. If you sign up with JIM HURLEY, you get the right plays at the right numbers…which makes YOU the smart money!

Generally speaking, you’re going to get:

*Live underdogs who have clear on field edges that should have made them the favorite. This is often keyed by underdog pitchers who are in position to have a peak outing. But, it can be the result of an overrated favorite pitcher…or an underrated surging upstart team as well.

*Affordable favorites who are in position to win decisively. It’s very common early in a baseball season for oddsmakers to be conservative with their lines. They stay close to the vest with lines like -120, -130, or -140 even with teams who are establishing that they should be getting more respect. We will take advantage of those opportunities whenever they present themselves.

*Hot teams who are poised to enjoy long winning streaks because they have consistent offenses and a solid top-to-bottom rotation. It seems like every year, a handful of teams get off to FANTASTIC starts that leave their moneylines in ruins. Find a team like this, and it’s worth 5-6 winners rather than just one (sometimes more). This is a JIM HURLEY specialty.

You can try out our baseball on a day-to-day basis here at the website with your credit card. Remember to take care of business EARLY when there are day games. Most everything Thursday is early, and about half the Friday card is as well. The best value is to sign up for the seasonal package. You can do that online or by calling our office at 1-800-323-4453.

We’ll be digging deep into baseball and NBA basketball throughout the Spring and Summer here in the NOTEBOOK. Friday’s report will focus on key stats and news developments from all the Thursday afternoon openers. We’ll hop back and forth between the sports for the time being to line up with breaking stories…whether it’s the Knicks or Yankees…Lakers or Dodgers…Mavericks or Rangers…Celtics or Red Sox…we’ll do our best to find the handicapping angle to the biggest stories.

Be sure you’re with us EVERY DAY in the NOTEBOOK so you know what’s really happening in the world of sports. And, link up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK for BIG JUICY WINNERS!

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