Let the games begin! Here's what to look for

February 22nd, 2020

The time has finally come -- baseball is back! The Cactus League and Grapefruit League officially kick into high gear on Saturday.

There are a lot of exciting storylines as the exhibition action gets underway, so here's a look at what to watch for from each of the teams' first Spring Training games.


Rays at Red Sox, 1:05 p.m. ET

Rays: Jalen Beeks, Trevor Richards and Pete Fairbanks will take the mound as they begin their auditions to make the Opening Day roster. Beeks and Richards are looking to make the team as a long reliever, while Fairbanks, who recorded two saves last season, is vying for a role at the back end of the bullpen. -- Juan Toribio

Red Sox: Interim manager Ron Roenicke -- the interim tag is expected to be lifted soon -- makes his Grapefruit League debut in this Spring Training of transition for the Red Sox. Andrew Benintendi, J.D. Martinez and and Jackie Bradley Jr. should be among those in the lineup. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts has been slowed in camp by a left ankle injury, so he won’t play. Same goes for third baseman Rafael Devers, whose arrival in camp was delayed by the birth of his daughter. Lefty Brian Johnson, who is a non-roster invitee this spring, will make the start as the competition for the fifth spot in the rotation starts. -- Ian Browne

Blue Jays at Yankees, 1:05 p.m. ET

Blue Jays: Trent Thornton gets the first shot to make his case for the No. 5 rotation job, a competition involving a half-dozen young arms, but all eyes will remain on Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio as they look to make a big jump in their second season. -- Keegan Matheson

Yankees: J.A. Happ will draw the start as the Yankees open their Grapefruit League exhibition schedule. Fans will get a look at the new double-play combination of Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu, while Giancarlo Stanton is expected to bat in the heart of the Bombers’ lineup, aiming to enjoy a healthy spring after being limited to 18 regular-season games last year. -- Bryan Hoch

Mets at Cardinals, 1:05 p.m. ET

Mets: In his first spring with the Mets, Marcus Stroman will attempt to show that he can back up his brash brand of confidence with results. Fresh off a winter focused on core strength and stability, Stroman will start the road half of a split squad in the Mets’ first day of Grapefruit League games. -- Anthony DiComo

Cardinals: Jack Flaherty will attempt to build off his historic second half last season right out of the gate this spring. The 24-year-old Cardinals ace will open Saturday’s game against the Mets at Roger Dean Stadium. -- Anne Rogers

Orioles at Braves, 1:05 p.m. ET

Orioles: Chandler Shepherd will get the ball in the O’s Grapefruit League opener, with Ty Blach to follow as Baltimore aims to stretch out several arms in a short time. Keep your eyes peeled for Adley Rutschman, the Orioles' No. 1 prospect, to see some late-innings action. MLB’s No. 4 prospect overall per MLB Pipeline, Rutschman raked in live batting practice on Wednesday, and it’ll be interesting to see how that sweet stroke translates during in-game action. -- Dawn Klemish

Braves: Manager Brian Snitker will send Félix Hernández to the mound for Atlanta's Grapefruit League opener. Hernandez is attempting to extend his career while battling for a spot in the rotation. Top offseason acquisition Marcell Ozuna will be among the veterans he rests during the early portion of the exhibition schedule.  This will create more playing time for Cristian Pache and Drew Waters, who are two of MLB Pipeline’s top outfield prospects.  -- Mark Bowman

Twins at Pirates, 1:05 p.m. ET

Twins: Keep your eyes peeled for any shenanigans as Rocco Baldelli makes the trek north to Bradenton, Fla., with his team for his first managerial matchup against Derek Shelton, his longtime friend and former bench coach. That Rays coaching tree is a very prank-happy bunch. Devin Smeltzer will get the start for his first look in the competition for the No. 5 starting role, but knowing Baldelli, don’t expect too many of the big boppers in the Bomba Squad’s lineup to make the bus trip. -- Do-Hyoung Park

Pirates: Derek Shelton will manage a Major League team for the first time as the Pirates host Shelton’s former team at LECOM Park for their Grapefruit League opener. Expect to see a lot of young Bucs, the core that new general manager Ben Cherington hopes to build an improving team around over the next few years, beginning with starter (and top prospect) Mitch Keller taking the mound. -- Adam Berry

Phillies at Tigers, 1:05 p.m. ET

Phillies: The Phillies are wasting no time ramping up the competition for the final spot in their starting rotation. Nick Pivetta, who hopes to win that job after being moved to the bullpen last season, will start Philadelphia’s Grapefruit League opener. Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Jake Arrieta are solidified as the top three pitchers in the rotation, while Zach Eflin is expected to be the No. 4 starter, though the Phils have said he is also competing alongside Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and left-hander Ranger Suárez for the final two spots. Nola will make his first start on Sunday, while Velasquez will get his first audition of the spring on Monday against the Orioles at Spectrum Field. -- Todd Zolecki

Tigers: Miguel Cabrera has been slugging like his old form in workouts after slimming down this offseason. Now it’s time to take that swing into the box against opposing pitching. C.J. Cron is also expected to make his Tigers debut, while manager Ron Gardenhire has a bevy of pitching prospects he can throw in a preview of better times to come in Motown. -- Jason Beck

Marlins at Mets, 1:10 p.m. ET

Marlins: Jordan Yamamoto, competing for a rotation spot, has been tabbed as Miami’s Grapefruit League opener starter. The 23-year-old made 15 starts and was 4-5 with a 4.46 ERA in 2019, after being promoted from Double-A Jacksonville. The Marlins haven’t officially announced their travel schedule, but the Grapefruit League schedule is the first time Miami fans will see newcomers like Jonathan Villar, a career middle infielder, who is getting a shot to play center field. -- Joe Frisaro

Mets: Two Mets will debut in the home half of a split squad -- one in the dugout, the other on the mound. The former is Luis Rojas, who is set to manage his first game exactly one month after taking the job. The latter is Rick Porcello, a free-agent signing designed to bolster the back of New York’s rotation. -- Anthony DiComo

Dodgers at Giants, 5:15 p.m. ET -- Originally 3:05 p.m., pushed back due to weather

Dodgers: Reigning National League MVP Award winner Cody Bellinger is expected to be in the opening starting lineup, but newly acquired right fielder Mookie Betts is not expected to make his Dodgers debut against the Giants. Tony Gonsolin has been named the starting pitcher by manager Dave Roberts. -- Ken Gurnick

Giants: The Giants will take the field for the first time under new manager Gabe Kapler, who will send right-hander Dereck Rodríguez to the mound for the club’s Cactus League opener. Buster Posey, Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt are among the veterans who are expected to make their spring debuts. -- Maria Guardado

Brewers at Rangers, 3:05 p.m. ET -- Cancelled due to weather

Angels at White Sox, 3:05 p.m. ET -- Cancelled due to weather

Reds at Indians, 3:05 p.m. ET -- Cancelled due to weather

Mariners at Padres, 3:10 p.m. ET -- Cancelled due to weather

Royals at Angels, 3:10 p.m. ET -- Cancelled due to weather

D-backs at Rockies, 3:10 p.m. ET -- Cancelled due to weather

Nationals at Astros, 6:05 p.m. ET

Nationals: The Nationals begin their pursuit of back-to-back World Series titles when they open Spring Training against the Astros, the team they beat in seven games to win it all last year. Max Scherzer is expected to take the mound. -- Jessica Camerato

Astros: New manager Dusty Baker, who replaced AJ Hinch, will face a club he managed from 2016-17 when the Astros face the Nationals in a rematch of last year’s World Series. Right-handed prospect Cristian Jaiver will be the starting pitcher. -- Brian McTaggart

Athletics at Cubs, 8:10 p.m. ET

Athletics: A.J. Puk kicks off Cactus League play as he takes the mound for an A’s starting rotation expected to be a strength of the club. Saturday’s game also marks the beginning of a five-man battle to fill the vacancy at second base. Austin Allen and Jonah Heim are also in contention for the backup catcher job, and with Sean Murphy being held out of games until early March, both will get their chance to prove themselves. -- Martin Gallegos

Cubs: A new era begins for the Cubs with manager David Ross at the helm. For the Cactus League opener, righty Alec Mills (a candidate for the rotation’s fifth spot) is scheduled to take the ball. Beyond the rotation competition this spring, Chicago will also have a wide-open race for bullpen jobs and a battle for the second base role. The Cubs will also be testing out a new leadoff hitter: Kris Bryant. -- Jordan Bastian