The national pastime is alive and well and percolating with a spring pulse, just in time for Feb. 14. Fittingly, the holiday that celebrates love will double as one of the most anticipated days of the year for the baseball fan. Yes, it's time for a Valentine's Day gift that
The national pastime is alive and well and percolating with a spring pulse, just in time for Feb. 14. Fittingly, the holiday that celebrates love will double as one of the most anticipated days of the year for the baseball fan. Yes, it's time for a Valentine's Day gift that far surpasses a box of chocolates: More than half of MLB's clubs are holding their first workouts.
The weather in Arizona and Florida is looking good. The renovated rosters are ready to begin the grind that all 30 teams hope will end up where the Chicago Cubs did in November -- with a World Series title.
And today, a sweet 16 of big league clubs officially began working toward that goal, with the first formal workouts being held this morning.
• Dates for each team's first workouts
Here are the teams taking the field today and what to look for from their pitchers and catchers, followed by the other clubs' opening workouts:
Arizona Diamondbacks: Questions abound for a team on the rebound. The D-backs have a new general manager in Mike Hazen and a new manager in Torey Lovullo, and if they're going to orchestrate a turnaround, they'll need success on the mound. Ace Zack Greinke still heads up the rotation, which added an intriguing piece in young Taijuan Walker, acquired from Seattle in the Jean Segura trade. Shelby Miller will once again try to find his form, while new additions Jeff Mathis and Chris Iannetta shore up the catching corps and Fernando Rodney assumes closing duties.
Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles contended last season and could again in 2017. A solid rotation comes back mostly intact, with Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Wade Miley and Ubaldo Jimenez penciled in and working out this morning. Welington Castillo and Caleb Joseph are slated to be the catchers. Zach Britton returns to the closing role after a brilliant season.
Boston Red Sox: All eyes will be on Chris Sale, the perennial American League Cy Young Award candidate who was landed in a mega-deal with the White Sox over the offseason. However, plenty of eyes will be on the 2016 AL Cy Young Award winner, Rick Porcello, another former AL Cy Young Award winner, lefty David Price, plus midseason addition Thomas Pomeranz and knuckleballer Steven Wright and a beefed-up bullpen with newcomer Tyler Thornburg. Yes, the Red Sox are stacked with pitching on paper, and today will mark the first day of seeing how it all plays out on the field. Behind the plate, we'll see what transpires for reps between contenders Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart.
Chicago White Sox: The White Sox unloaded Sale to get younger overall, but the pitching staff that will warm up at Camelback Ranch today has a veteran feel. Jose Quintana takes over for Sale as the staff ace and will be joined by young lefty Carlos Rodon plus more experienced arms in James Shields, Miguel Gonzalez and Derek Holland and closer Player Page for David Robertson. Keep an eye on Omar Narvaez, who could seize starting duties behind the plate.
Cincinnati Reds: Cincinnati has a mixture of youth and veteran moxie, but Anthony DeSclafani takes the reins as the ace after an impressive 2016 season. Young left-hander Brandon Finnegan hopes to continue to emerge, and veterans Scott Feldman and Tim Adleman and youngster Robert Stephenson will round out the rotation while the Reds await the return of Homer Bailey from injury. Also returning is catcher Devin Mesoraco, who missed most of 2016 because of surgery (hip) and he will be challenged by Tucker Barnhart.
Cleveland Indians: The Indians lasted until the 10th inning of Game 7 of the World Series despite right-hander Danny Salazar being limited to three innings of relief during the series and Carlos Carrasco missing the postseason with a broken bone in his pitching hand. Those guys are back to bolster what looks like a formidable staff for the AL champs. Former AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber is the unquestioned ace, Carrasco and Salazar will fit right back in, and the Tribe also has reliable depth in Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, Mike Clevinger, Cody Anderson and Ryan Merritt. Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez give the catching corps stability and experience.
Colorado Rockies: New manager Bud Black has to like where this team is headed. Young starters Jon Gray and Tyler Anderson had their moments in 2016 and will be back in the mix today at Salt River Fields. They'll be joined in the Rockies' rotation by veteran righties Chad Bettis and Tyler Chatwood in addition to 21-year-old German Marquez and 24-year-old Jeff Hoffman. Greg Holland will try to rebound from Tommy John surgery and excel in the closer's role that he previously held in Kansas City.
Detroit Tigers: A strength in 2016 figures to be a strength again this year. AL Cy Young Award runner-up Justin Verlander returned to brilliant form last year and heads up a strong rotation. He'll be followed by AL Rookie of the Year Award winner Michael Fulmer, veteran Jordan Zimmermann and a mixture of youth and experience in young lefties Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd plus righties Mike Pelfrey and Anibal Sanchez in a deep and talented group. James McCann will be back behind the plate, and Alex Avila has returned to Detroit to back him up. Francisco Rodriguez comes back as the closer for another spin in his familiar role.
Kansas City Royals: The Royals have rebuilt the rotation that helped them win a World Series in 2015, but they are still reeling from the tragic loss of Yordano Ventura, who died in a car accident in the Dominican Republic last month. Lefty Danny Duffy's breakout 2016 sets the stage for his emergence as a staff ace, and the Royals will be counting on veterans Ian Kennedy, Jason Vargas and Jason Hammel to round out a solid top four. Also on the staff are Nathan Karns, Christopher Young, Mike Minor and Travis Wood. Gold Glove catcher Salvador Perez returns and Andrew Butera is set to back him up. Following the departures of Holland and Wade Davis, it looks like it'll be Kelvin Herrera's turn to be the closer.
Miami Marlins: The Marlins must enter a new season without their ace, Jose Fernandez, who died in a boating accident in September. Miami will go with Wei-Yin Chen as its ace and newly acquired veteran Edinson Volquez in the No. 2 role. Hard-throwing lefty Adam Conley showed signs of brilliance in 2016 and will be back along with Tom Koehler and righty Dan Straily, who was acquired in a swap with the Reds. Jeff Locke provides depth. At catcher, J.T. Realmuto will be back after an excellent 2016 season, and veteran A.J. Ellis provides security. Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa are among the new additions to the bullpen.
New York Mets: The young, exciting Mets rotation is back at it, and this camp should draw as much attention as any for the pure talent on the mound. Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, a returning Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and a healthy Zack Wheeler are intriguing enough, but the terrific work of Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman in 2016 makes this group deeper. New York will be hoping for a healthy season from young catcher Travis d'Arnaud, who will be backed up by veteran Rene Rivera and Kevin Plawecki. Jeurys Familia returns as closer.
Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies are getting better in a hurry, and they have good arms all over the rotation. Veterans Jeremy Hellickson and offseason trade acquisition Clay Buchholz provide innings and dependability atop the rotation, but youngsters Jerad Eickhoff, Aaron Nola and Vince Velasquez have a lot of upside. Cameron Rupp, Andrew Knapp and prospect Jorge Alfaro will compete for the bulk of the catching work. Jeanmar Gomez will be back as the closer.
Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates didn't make the postseason last year but are driven to return to October. They'll need their ace, Gerrit Cole, to be healthy, and he'll be back this morning to lead that rotation. He'll be joined by Jameson Taillon, Ivan Nova, Chad Kuhl and Tyler Glasnow plus other contenders, including Andrew Hutchison. Francisco Cervelli leads the catching corps and is accompanied by Chris Stewart and Elias Diaz. Tony Watson takes over as closer and will be aided by new bullpen addition Daniel Hudson.
St. Louis Cardinals: The top pitcher-and-catcher combination on the Cardinals, Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina, are about as solid and dependable as it gets in Major League Baseball. But there's a lot more talent in this Redbirds' rotation, including Carlos Martinez, a rebounding Lance Lynn, reliable Mike Leake and Michael Wacha and up-and-comer Alex Reyes. The bullpen adds lefty Brett Cecil.
San Francisco Giants: The Giants won the World Series in 2010, '12 and '14 in part because of great pitching and in part because of the great pitching of ace Madison Bumgarner. He's back, along with another usual National League Cy Young Award contender in Johnny Cueto, hard-throwing right-hander Jeff Samardzija and last year's late trade addition, lefty Matt Moore. Also competing for innings will be Player Page for Matt Cain, Ty Blach and Albert Suarez. Mark Melancon takes over closer duties, and Buster Posey remains the stalwart All-Star behind the plate.
Tampa Bay Rays:Chris Archer stepped up late in 2016 and will likely have to do it again for the Rays to contend, but there's a lot of talent behind him in this rotation, which also includes hard-throwing Jake Odorizzi and Blake Snell. The progress of Alex Cobb in his return from injury will be intriguing to watch, as will the development of prospect Jose De Leon, acquired from the Dodgers in the John Forsythe deal. Alex Colome returns to the closer role while Luke Maile and Curt Casali will hold down the catching duties until new acquisition Wilson Ramos is ready to return from knee surgery.
On Wednesday, the A's, Astros, Angels, Blue Jays, Braves, Brewers, Cubs, Mariners, Padres Rangers, Twins and Yankees will take the field for the first time. On Thursday, the last two will break the ice: the Dodgers and Nationals.
The first full-squad workouts commence on Friday, starting with the Cardinals, D-backs, Giants, Marlins, Orioles, Phillies, Pirates, Red Sox, Reds and Royals.
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB.