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Saturday sports: MLB begins; NBA playoffs coming up; Tiger Woods plays Masters

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Hey, baseball's back. Cubs undefeated so far - one win, one rainout. Homestretch in the NBA. And Tiger Woods. Howard Bryant from Meadowlark Media joins us. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott. Are you excited?

SIMON: Yeah, I am excited. I always am by the start of...

BRYANT: (Laughter).

SIMON: But I tell you what. So I looked over all the preseason predictions. As near as I can tell, the Los Angeles Dodgers have - with the exception of Shohei Ohtani, have accumulated every big-name player in the game since Honus Wagner was on the field.

BRYANT: (Laughter). It is true. It is true. And they are a machine. They're a juggernaut in the whole thing. And I asked if you were interested and excited because it does feel - it - you know, opening day sort of snuck up on me because of the lockout...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...And because the Red Sox and Yankees got rained out. And then I was watching the world champion Braves playing the Reds the other night, and I was like, wait a minute. It's the regular season. These games actually count, so...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: It is good that the games have started, and the bitterness of the labor situation seems to be behind. And it seems like the fans are going to be - are interested. And so we'll see what happens. But I think people are very happy that the...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...That the summer game is back.

SIMON: And I think the White Sox are looking good. I'll say that, OK? Just...

BRYANT: White Sox are very good.

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: And people are expecting the White Sox to be very good, and they're expecting...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...The Toronto Blue Jays to be very good, and they're expecting the Dodgers to run away with it. But people in San Francisco...

SIMON: Yeah?

BRYANT: ...Are saying, wait a minute. Our team won 107 games last year. Don't forget about us. And then down in Atlanta, they're saying, well, we won the World Series. So there's a whole bunch of excitement across the board for everybody. I'm actually really looking forward to seeing what a bunch of teams do...

SIMON: Yeah, me too.

BRYANT: ...Including - I really like Toronto. I really like what San Francisco did. Interested in seeing what Bob Melvin and San Diego do this year even though their superstar Fernando Tatis is going to be out because...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...He busted his wrist riding his motorcycle.

SIMON: Oh, that'll happen.

BRYANT: (Laughter).

SIMON: NBA playoffs - LeBron and the Lakers are out, but...

BRYANT: Out.

SIMON: Fear the Deer.

BRYANT: (Laughter).

SIMON: They're looking pretty good, aren't they?

BRYANT: Waiting to hear that from you, Scott - it's been a while - because I think that people have sort of let the Bucks go under the radar.

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: They were good this year. They weren't great. They didn't blow everybody away. You've got a huge glut of teams at the top of the East. You've got Philadelphia, and you've got Miami, and you've got Milwaukee and Boston, the suddenly very, very good Boston Celtics. But the champs are still the champs. And until somebody beats them, I think they're the favorites even though the best team in the NBA...

SIMON: Yes.

BRYANT: ...This year, by far, has been the team that Milwaukee beat in the finals, the Phoenix Suns.

SIMON: Yeah. And of course, Tiger Woods, back from a car accident just over a year ago, he's playing in the Masters Tournament this week. I think - I confess we have, you know, a monitor tuned to ESPN on in the studio. I think he's nine strokes back. What do you make of this?

BRYANT: Well, I think the victory of Tiger is that he's there in the first place.

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: I think that this is a story - I don't think anyone expected Tiger Woods to come back. When you go back and you - at least for this tournament, I think when you go and you look at the wreckage of that accident he had last year, you didn't know if he was ever going to be able to play at the highest level again. And I think that Tiger is one of those athletes that - one of those really, really special athletes that whenever he's in the field, you're doing two things. You're watching the game, but you're also watching him.

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: And that always brings a special element to the tournament. And making the cut through all, you know, four rounds would be pretty spectacular as well. Good comeback story no matter what he does.

SIMON: Howard Bryant, thanks so much. Talk to you soon.

BRYANT: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.