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St. Louis Cardinals Open 2011 Schedule March 31 At San Diego

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Fear not, beleaguered fans of the 2010 Redbirds: The St. Louis Cardinals' 2011 Opening Day is closer than you probably imagined. The Cardinals' 2011 schedule, released today, starts March 31, against the San Diego Padres, in Major League Baseball's latest attempt to keep Mr. Octobers from turning into Mr. Novembers. The team's first game of the season comes at 3:15 p.m. on a Thursday, the first such start since 1998.

The Cardinals will take on the Padres and then the Pittsburgh Pirates at home before heading on a 10-game, 12-day West Coast road trip, against the San Francisco Giants, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Los Angeles Dodgers. In fact, the Cardinals will play 31 of their first 56 games -- a stretch that lasts into May -- on the road.

The year's first taste of the Cardinals' rivalry with the Chicago Cubs will come at Wrigley Field on May 10; the Cubs will come to St. Louis for three weekends: June 3-5, July 29-31, and Sept. 23-25, for the last home game of the regular season. The Cardinals play their final game at the Houston Astros on Sept. 28.

The 2011 All-Star Game will take place in Arizona on July 12. The Diamondbacks, while they're at it, might also be goodwill ambassadors to Taiwan— reports that talks are underway to have the Diamondbacks and the San Francisco Giants open the season there, a boon to a baseball-loving country whose professional league has fallen prey to a series of crippling game-fixing scandals.

View the whole schedule here.