2016 Spring Training cheat sheet

Here are the important dates, matchups and storylines to follow in Ariz. and Fla.

February 17th, 2016

Between the first day pitchers and catchers report in mid-February to the time the regular season opens on April 3, hundreds of Spring Training games will be played in both Arizona and Florida, as front offices whittle their roster down from 60-some to 40-some to 30-some and, finally on decision day, to the 25 who will be on the Opening Day roster.

After thousands of pitches are thrown, swings are taken, pieces of gum are chewed and pounds are lifted in the weight rooms, it'll be time to vacate the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues and begin the real thing. Until then, there are several highlights to mark on your calendar, to bridge the gap between exhibition baseball and Opening Day.

With some camps opening today (finally!), here's a handy guide to everything you need to know about 2016 Spring Training.

Royal return! KC among 11 clubs reporting today

Key report dates

Today: This is earliest date for the first pitcher and catcher workouts. Four teams start on this day: D-backs, Reds, Phillies and Giants. Most teams' pitchers and catchers report between today and Saturday.

Monday: The Marlins will hold the first full-squad workout of the 30 teams.

Feb. 27: The Twins will hold the last full-squad workout of the 30 teams.

First games

Feb. 28: The University of Tampa will play the Phillies in Clearwater, Fla. This game marks the first spring matchup on the MLB schedule.

March 1: The first day of games between Major League teams: Orioles at Braves, Pirates at Tigers, Blue Jays at Phillies and Reds at Indians. The D-backs will also host a game with the University of Arizona, and the Marlins will host the University of Miami as well.

Notable reunions

The offseason provided a flurry of trades and free-agent signings of marquee players, which sets up both Spring Training and the regular season as opportunities for former teammates to play against each other and maybe even bro hug behind the cage during batting practice. Most notably:

March 3, Mets at Nationals: Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy will likely see a few innings of action against his former club when the two teams gather at the Nats' spring home in Viera, Fla.

March 5, D-backs at Dodgers: If Zack Greinke is to stay on an every-fifth-day pitching schedule throughout the spring leading up to Opening Day, he'll pitch for his new team, the D-backs, against his former team, the Dodgers, on March 5. (That could be a precursor for a slightly more intriguing regular-season happenstance, where Greinke would face the Dodgers in Los Angeles when the D-backs finish up a series there on April 14.)

March 7, Royals at Cubs: Ben Zobrist won a World Series with the Royals, named his newborn daughter Blaise Royal and, about a month later, signed with the Cubs. Zobrist could face his former Kansas City teammates as a Cub for the first time on March 7. The two teams will meet again on March 16 in Surprise, Ariz., and March 20 in Mesa, Ariz.

March 11, Red Sox at Blue Jays: David Price started last season with the Tigers and ended as a key member of a Blue Jays team that made it to Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. Now, Price is with the Red Sox and could meet up with his former Blue Jays teammates when Boston travels to play Toronto in Dunedin, Fla., on March 11. This will only happen, however, if Price is slated to pitch that day -- starting pitchers not scheduled for a road game generally wouldn't travel that day.

Price could have two more chances to face the Blue Jays, however, when the two teams meet in Montreal for an exhibition series on April 1-2. However, it's doubtful that would happen since Price will likely be Boston's Opening Day starter on April 4 against the Indians.

March 22, Giants at White Sox: Jeff Samardzija was a Chicago South Sider last year, and now, he's a Giant. The White Sox and Giants meet for the first time of the spring in split-squad fashion on March 27 in Glendale, Ariz., and again on March 29 in Scottsdale, Ariz..

March 25, Royals at Giants: Another new Giant, Johnny Cueto, will have a chance to face his former club during Cactus League action. The Royals and Giants will play in Scottsdale on March 25, and again in Surprise on March 29.

March 26, Reds at White Sox: Todd Frazier's offseason departure from Cincinnati wasn't a total shock to Reds fans, but for those still having trouble cutting the cord, there will be a couple of opportunities to see him as an opposing player. The Reds will play the White Sox (split squad) in Glendale on March 26, and the White Sox return the visit in Goodyear, Ariz., on March 30.

Injury watch

• Giancarlo Stanton broke his left hamate bone halfway through last season and hasn't played since. He's presumed to be healthy entering Spring Training, and to overstate the obvious, the Marlins don't have much of a chance to contend without him. With Stanton, they should be an interesting force in the National League East.

• Angels first baseman Albert Pujols had surgery in early November to repair a plantar plate on his right big toe, and at the time, he was estimated to need 4 1/2 months of recovery. That eliminates his chances to be ready for a full slate of activities when Spring Training starts. Pujols could be ready for Opening Day, although that depends on how much time he'll need to prepare after an abbreviated spring.

• Indians left fielder Michael Brantley had right shoulder surgery in November, and he is estimated by the team to be ready sometime before the end of May (and as early as April). Brantley has heard prognostications about his return that extended as far as August (a notion that has been laughed off by the Indians and Brantley), but one thing everyone can agree on is that he'll be on his own recovery program during Spring Training.

• Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka threw about 20 pitches in the bullpen on Saturday, his first time on the hill since having offseason surgery to remove a bone spur from his pitching elbow. Tanaka said there were no issues, meaning he is still in play to start on Opening Day, but his condition will be a hot topic all spring.

• Another Japanese-born ace, Yu Darvish, is looking to return to a big league mound by mid-May after undergoing Tommy John surgery during Spring Training last year. After sitting out all of 2015, the Rangers right-hander reported with pitchers and catchers this week, and he's currently throwing from flat ground.

• Injury Report

Exciting locations

• The Royals and Rangers will partake in a split-squad exhibition series at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, on March 18-19. This will be the fourth "Big League Weekend" hosted by Ryan-Sanders Baseball, and it will feature a "Kings of the Diamond" dinner featuring Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan and George Brett.

• The Astros and Padres will meet for a two-game series in Mexico City on March 26-27. The series will take place at Fray Nano, the current home of the Diablos Rojos del Mexico (Mexico City Red Devils). Fray Nano Stadium has a 4,500-seat capacity, but it will undergo a temporary expansion to accommodate roughly 8,000 fans for the Mexico City Series.

• The Cubs and Mets will stage an NLCS rematch of sorts when they square off for two games in Las Vegas on March 31-April 1. This will be the 12th consecutive season the Cubs will visit Cashman Field for a spring exhibition series. The Mets, fittingly, are the parent club of the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s.

• As mentioned earlier, the Red Sox and Blue Jays will play an exhibition series at Olympic Stadium on April 1-2.