Reporting for duty: 13 get camp underway today
By the end of the day, more than half of the 30 Major League teams will have reported to Spring Training in Arizona or Florida.
The Reds, Indians, Phillies, Pirates and Giants reported on Wednesday, and another 13 will report today, bringing the total number of teams officially in camp to 18. The remaining 12 teams will round out the process over the next few days, with the last two -- the Twins and Blue Jays -- reporting on Sunday.
The list of teams reporting today includes all six division champions from a year ago in the Orioles, Tigers, Angels, Nationals, Cardinals and Dodgers. It also includes both American League Wild Card teams from last season, meaning that -- with the National League Wild Card-winning Giants and Pirates having reported on Wednesday -- all 10 postseason teams will have opened Spring Training by day's end.
Also among the teams reporting today are the Cubs and Padres, two clubs that underwent significant overhauls and hope to be mentioned on that list of reigning postseason teams at this time next year. For now, though, let's take a look at the 13 teams that are reporting today and some of their key storylines.
Royals: How will Kansas City follow up its surprising pennant run from a season ago? The Royals report to camp having lost ace James Shields, designated hitter Billy Butler and outfielder Nori Aoki to free agency, but they have added Edinson Volquez, Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios, and they still boast possibly the game's most formidable bullpen. It won't be an easy path back to the postseason, however, as the AL Central figures to stack up as one of the league's toughest divisions.
Cubs: The Cubs underwent a significant overhaul this offseason, and it's finally time to see what the new product looks like on the field. Along with new skipper Joe Maddon, the club also added a new ace in Jon Lester, as well as catcher Miguel Montero, outfielder Dexter Fowler, infielder Tommy La Stella and right-hander Jason Hammel, among others. The main question to be answered this spring, however, is whether top prospect Kris Bryant will join fellow young standouts Jorge Soler and Javier Baez on the club's Opening Day roster.
Padres: San Diego enjoyed a very active offseason, revamping its offense with Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Derek Norris, Will Middlebrooks and Clint Barmes, while also bolstering its pitching corps with the addition of starters Shields and Brandon Morrow, as well as relievers Brandon Maurer and Shawn Kelley. Now the Padres must begin to mesh all those offseason additions together, ideally improving an offense that ranked last among all Major League clubs in batting average and runs scored last season.
Angels: After a quiet offseason, the Angels will look to rebound from being swept by the Royals last October. The Halos report to Tempe, Ariz., in need of a solution at second base, where Josh Rutledge, Johnny Giavotella, Grant Green and Taylor Featherston are expected to compete, as well as a No. 5 starter, with Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano and Hector Santiago among the candidates for the role. And, as always, all eyes will be on Mike Trout as enters his age-23 season, coming off a year in which he became the youngest unanimous AL MVP Award winner.
Dodgers: A revamped Dodgers roster reports to Camelback Ranch-Glendale on Thursday featuring several new faces. The club will begin the process of reshaping its bullpen after learning recently that closer Kenley Jansen will be sidelined for two to three more months after offseason foot surgery. And, at catcher, new addition Yasmani Grandal will compete to handle one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, featuring reigning NL MVP Award and NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. In Grandal's way, however, is incumbent A.J. Ellis, who will need to show some improvement with his bat to keep the starting gig.
Cardinals: The Cards will begin the quest to finalize the back of their rotation as pitchers and catchers report to the team's facility in Jupiter, Fla. The club is seeking a No. 5 option to follow starters Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, John Lackey and Michael Wacha. Oft-injured veteran Jaime Garcia, who's made just 36 starts over the past three seasons, will compete with young hurlers Marco Gonzales and Carlos Martinez for that final rotation spot.
Nationals: The Nats made a splash this winter by signing Max Scherzer to a long-term deal, adding him to an already stellar staff of Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister. But the club's most crucial additions may have already been on the roster as Wilson Ramos, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman enter the year healthy after each missed significant time in 2014. With the starting lineup all but set, Washington will look to sort out its bench this spring.
Orioles: The O's enter Spring Training as the defending AL East champions this year for the first time since 1998. The focus this spring will be on the health of two of the club's core pieces -- catcher Matt Wieters and third baseman Manny Machado. Baltimore is counting on big seasons from both players to help fill the offensive void left by the departures of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis.
Tigers: There are a number of questions facing Detroit as it opens camp in Lakeland, Fla., in search of the club's fifth straight AL Central title. Along with the injuries to sluggers Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera, both of whom they hope to have ready for Opening Day, the Tigers will also be without Scherzer, who signed a seven-year, $210 million deal with the Nationals last month.
Mets: Matt Harvey rejoins the Mets' rotation more than a year removed from Tommy John surgery as pitchers and catchers report. Beyond Harvey, the Mets have a surplus of starters with Dillon Gee likely the odd man out of the rotation. Offensively, outfielder Michael Cuddyer joins the mix, while David Wright and Curtis Granderson hope to bounce back from disappointing seasons in 2014.
Athletics: The new-look A's will have their first opportunity to gel, and they will do so at the club's new Spring Training complex in Mesa, Ariz. After a significant roster overhaul, Oakland now faces several questions, notably who will fill out its rotation behind Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir and who begins the year at closer with Sean Doolittle expected to miss the start of the regular season as he recovers from shoulder surgery.
D-backs: The D-backs revamped their rotation this offseason, but very little is set in stone beyond Josh Collmenter and Jeremy Hellickson. The list of starters vying for one of the three remaining spots includes at least 11 pitchers -- Chase Anderson, Robbie Ray, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Watson, Andrew Chafin, Trevor Cahill, Vidal Nuno, Daniel Hudson, Randall Delgado, Yoan Lopez and Archie Bradley. The other key storyline this spring will be whether Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, who signed a six-year, $68 million deal this offseason, can successfully transition into the club's starting third baseman.
Rockies: Despite numerous rumors throughout the winter, both Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez remain Rockies entering Spring Training. Tulowitzki hit an incredible .340 with 21 home runs last season despite being limited to just 91 games in yet another injury-hampered season. Can he stay healthy in 2015? And if so, what type of numbers can he put up with a full slate of games?