Royal return! KC among 11 clubs reporting

February 17th, 2016

This pitchers and catchers thing is catching on.

A day after Spring Training sprung open at eight camps in Florida and Arizona, 11 more teams -- including the defending champion Kansas City Royals -- are ready to get 2016 started by officially reporting for duty Thursday. Though the usual caveat that a ton of players were early arrivals at the various spring sites applies, pitchers and catchers for the Royals, Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Nationals, Reds, Tigers, Rangers, Astros, Padres and Angels will formally check in, with first workouts soon to follow.

That's 11 more fan bases rightly fired up about the dawn of a new season. It's part of what makes baseball so great -- the mere practice of guys showing up for work sets off those warm and fuzzy feelings, especially in places where the winter winds are howling.

2016 Spring Training cheat sheet

The Royals are still glowing from a World Series triumph 30 years in the making. And if they needed additional incentive to show up hungry to repeat, they got it earlier this week when PECOTA once again pegged them for a win total in the 70s, good enough for dead last in the American League Central.

For the Royals to enjoy another round of projection rejection, they'll need their relief situation to be as strong as ever. A familiar face -- erstwhile closer Joakim Soria -- will arrive in Surprise, Ariz., intent on keeping that bullish bullpen running smooth. Kansas City will also welcome Ian Kennedy, its surprise $70 million man. But the guy with the most on the line in camp might be lefty Danny Duffy, who is trying to nail down a rotation spot.

As for the other 10 on tap, well, they're trying to get to where the Royals got in 2015. In the spirit of the occasion, here's a rundown of each of their prime pitcher/catcher storyline as spring dawns.

Yankees (Tampa, Fla.): Who will round out the rotation? CC Sabathia or Ivan Nova? There was a time when the question would have sounded silly, but Sabathia has pitched through knee troubles and endured the effects of all those awesome innings he once delivered. We'll see what the big man has left in the tank in 2016.

Red Sox (Fort Myers, Fla.): What's the post-David Price pecking order? There's no doubt Price arrives as a central figure on this squad, but who will step up as a worthy No. 2? The enigmatic Clay Buchholz? The bounceback candidate Rick Porcello? The streaky Joe Kelly? Or how about Eduardo Rodriguez, the young lefty who will certainly benefit from Price's guidance?

Nationals (Viera, Fla.): Can Stephen Strasburg get through camp healthy? He sustained an ankle injury last spring that got his year off to a rocky start from a mechanical standpoint, and that caused subsequent issues with his back. New pitching coach Mike Maddux is on board to make sure everything operates in order this spring, which precedes Strasburg's free-agent walk year.

Orioles (Sarasota, Fla.): Is more pitching help coming? The O's were rumored last week to be on the verge of signing Yovani Gallardo to help round out their rotation, but the dotted line hasn't been signed just yet.

Reds (Goodyear, Ariz.): Which young pitchers are ready to rise, and is Devin Mesoraco ready to catch them? It's a dual-pronged query for the rebuilding Reds, who made pitching a priority in some recent trade acquisitions (Brandon Finnegan and John Lamb) and now must sort through the stash in hopes of rounding out the rotation behind Tommy John alum Homer Bailey. Like Bailey, Mesoraco is returning from a lost year, and he's hoping his hip holds up.

Tigers (Lakeland, Fla.): Is the real Justin Verlander back? He rekindled memories of his old Cy Young self with some dominant moments in the second half of a 2015 season affected by injury. If Verlander develops the -- ahem -- eye of the Tiger once again, look out. The Tigers could reclaim their past position atop the AL Central.

Rangers (Surprise, Ariz.): All good with Yu? Darvish is a central figure in the Rangers' bid to defend their AL West title, expected to join the club sometime in May. He's begun throwing off flat ground, and his progression to mound work will be monitored very, very closely.

Angels (Tempe, Ariz.): How does the rotation shake out? The Halos currently have eight guys for five spots. Garrett Richards, Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson (barring a trade) are the locks, and you would imagine Andrew Heaney and Hector Santiago aren't far off from that status. But Tyler Skaggs, Nick Tropeano and Matt Shoemaker will try to make this decision as difficult as possible.

Astros (Kissimmee, Fla.): Are Scott Feldman and Doug Fister physically fit? Fister dealt with a forearm issue and diminished velocity in 2015, while Feldman's season ended with a shoulder sprain. They're attempting to round out the Dallas Keuchel-led rotation.

Padres (Peoria, Ariz.): Do any pitchers or catchers get moved? It's still an open question on a Padres team that was a frequent member of the rumor mill both before and after the Craig Kimbrel deal. Andrew Cashner and Derek Norris remain interesting trade chips for a San Diego team trying to simultaneously add young talent and contend in the National League West.