Spring has sprung: Pitchers and catchers report

February 15th, 2016

Let's get this party started: Pitchers and catchers reported on Wednesday. Spring Training is upon us, bringing that welcome beat of mitts popping to various camps in Florida and Arizona.

Teams roll in all week, arriving in waves, with the first ones to the bash Wednesday being the D-backs, Rockies, Indians, Mets, Phillies, Pirates, Cardinals and Giants. It's time to weigh in and start a sweet '16.

Ceremonial? Sure. But the emphasis these seven clubs have placed upon their pitching makes this date all the more meaningful.

Reward your eyes by taking a look at first spring images

This is a big day at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Ariz. The D-backs went all-in on improving their rotation this offseason, and their two shiny new pitching pieces -- Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller -- are now officially in the fold. In the first day of camp, Greinke was officially named the D-backs' Opening Day starter against their Salt River neighbors, the Rockies. 

Greinke is entering the first year of a six-year contract that makes him the game's highest-paid player in terms of average annual value ($34.4 million), and the D-backs sent a huge package to the Braves for Miller, including last year's No. 1 overall Draft pick, Dansby Swanson, and outfielder Ender Inciarte. So with so much emphasis on a new-look rotation to support a dangerous and defensively adept lineup, to say they've been anticipating this day in Arizona is an understatement.

The Rockies also make it official Wednesday. And while Colorado didn't have as dramatic an offseason as the D-backs, it's still feeling frisky about its chances in a dynamic National League West because of its beefed-up bullpen.

The Rockies prioritized their bullpen in their offseason pursuits, and their new additions -- left-hander Jake McGee and right-handers Jason Motte and Chad Qualls, each of whom has closing experience -- reported for duty Wednesday.

Justice: magic is back with start of Spring Training

Farther south in Scottsdale, the even year is finally here. The Giants have a triumphant trend to live up to in 2016, having won it all in '10, '12 and '14. And if the Giants are to have another giant year, it will be because of the big investments they made to patch up their rotation with Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija.

With both veteran hurlers coming off erratic years -- and Matt Cain coming off another injury-plagued one -- Wednesday marked the formal beginning of pitching coach Dave Righetti's work to maximize the effectiveness of his new-look staff. And of course, Buster Posey reported for duty, too. That can't hurt.

The Mets, the defending NL champs, got going Wednesday in Port St. Lucie, Fla., and their flamethrowing staff appears poised to take care of unfinished business this year after losing to the Royals in the World Series.

Speaking of NL pitching powerhouses, the Cardinals showed up in Jupiter, Fla., Wednesday with ace Adam Wainwright back in action after missing the majority of 2015 with an Achilles injury. Waino and the newly added Mike Leake are essentially the replacements for the departed John Lackey and the injured Lance Lynn, and the Cards have also taken a chance on Korean reliever Seung Hwan Oh (nickname: "The Final Boss") in their bullpen.

With many at camp, Cards set sights high

Last year, the Cardinals had the lowest staff ERA since 1988. How low can they go in 2016? The bigger question, perhaps, is when they'll have star catcher Yadier Molina, who is still in recovery mode from offseason thumb surgery.

Elsewhere in Florida are the two Pennsylvania clubs, the Pirates and Phillies.

The Bucs' record over the past three seasons is second only to that of the Cards, and they entered camp in Bradenton, Fla., once again looking to do what they do best -- eking every ounce of upside out of their pitching assemblage. This will be a challenge for manager Clint Hurdle and pitching coach Ray Searage, because the Pirates have lost A.J. Burnett to retirement and J.A. Happ, Joakim Soria and Antonio Bastardo to free agency.

But their coaching staff has proven unusually adept at addressing mechanical issues and turning careers around, and that's a framework that new additions Jon Niese, Ryan Vogelsong and Neftali Feliz hope to follow, beginning Wednesday.

Nearby, in Clearwater, Fla., the Phils embark upon a transition year with an exciting collection of young acquisitions they hope will be the backbone for their next great team. That includes Jake Thompson, Vincent Velasquez and Mark Appel on the pitching side and Jorge Alfaro behind the plate. This is also the first camp for Aaron Nola since his encouraging big league break-in last summer.

photo Phillies pitchers and catchers report

Last but certainly not least, in Goodyear, Ariz., one of the more highly touted young starting staffs in the game will get to work. The Indians got calls aplenty from other teams with proposals involving their Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar-led rotation, but they didn't pull the trigger on any trades.

The Tribe hopes to ride those arms -- as well as a deep bullpen, where Joba Chamberlain, Ross Detwiler, Tom Gorzelanny, Craig Stammen and Joe Thatcher are among the established big leaguers competing for jobs as non-roster invites -- to the top of a deep American League Central.