BRADENTON, Fla. -- This Spring Training is going to be different for the Pirates. You only need to take a few steps into the Pirate City clubhouse to figure that out.
As pitchers and catchers reported for Spring Training on Monday, they walked by walls that used to be covered by motivational quotes and inspirational messages perhaps befitting the military more than the Majors. Now, that space is occupied only by pictures of former Pirates legends on one side and the club’s retired numbers on the other.
Much more has changed than the clubhouse decor, of course.
A new general manager, Ben Cherington, is shaping the roster in the run-up to Opening Day. A new manager, Derek Shelton, is in charge. A new bench coach, Don Kelly, is running the daily camp activities. The only player tying this team to Pittsburgh’s last postseason club in 2015 is right fielder Gregory Polanco.
The Pirates may be building toward the future more so than the present, but the players believe they can outperform expectations this season. The roster may be unchanged compared to the management staff, but the club seems refreshed by the changes that took place above them.
“I think everybody here understands where we’re at. There’s advantages and there’s some disadvantages,” said starter Chris Archer, the oldest player (by age) on the 40-man roster at 31 years old. “But baseball is a special game where, if you execute at a high level like we all know we’re capable of, anything can happen. Teams with low payrolls make playoff pushes and stuff. … I know it’s possible.”
There will be plenty of people who expect little from the Pirates. They lost 93 games a year ago. Their projected payroll is around $50 million. They recently traded one of their best players, Starling Marte, for two 19-year-old prospects and $250,000 in international spending capacity. Cherington has declined to call it a rebuild, but even if the organizational focus is on future years, the players intend to make the most of this season.
“We know where we’re at as an organization. We know that it’s going to take time, but that doesn’t mean there’s going to be any lack of effort,” Archer said. “That doesn’t mean that our standards have lowered. When we step foot out there, especially with some of the pitchers we have, we expect to win. Period. If that’s ever not the case, I don’t want to play. I don’t even want to go out there if we’re just conceding the game right from the beginning.
“The players that we have, they might not have the resume, they might not have all the experience, but we have some really good players on this team. It’s baseball. Anything can happen.”
With pitchers, catchers and a handful of early arriving position players filling up the Pirate City clubhouse, let’s look at some of the basic elements of Pirates Spring Training.
Pitchers and catchers report date
Monday, Feb. 10
First pitchers and catchers workout
Wednesday, Feb. 12
Full squad report date
Sunday, Feb. 16
First full-squad workout
Monday, Feb. 17
New faces to know
Additions to the 40-man roster include relief prospect Blake Cederlind, lefty reliever Sam Howard, pitching prospect Cody Ponce, catcher Luke Maile, first-base prospect Will Craig, intriguing shortstop prospect Oneil Cruz, third-base prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes, utility man JT Riddle and outfielder Guillermo Heredia.
The Pirates’ list of non-roster invitees is also full of new faces.
You’ll see more of the people you’ve mostly just read about, too, from Cherington and assistant GM Steve Sanders in the front office to Shelton, Kelly and other new coaches: pitching coach Oscar Marin, assistant hitting coach Mike Rabelo, first-base coach Tarrik Brock and coach Glenn Sherlock.
Top prospects to know
The Pirates’ top three prospects will be in big league camp: right-hander Mitch Keller, Hayes and Cruz. All three are ranked on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list -- Keller at No. 39, Hayes at No. 41 and Cruz at No. 64.
Among the Pirates’ top 30 prospects, infielder/outfielder Kevin Kramer (No. 11), Craig (No. 12), outfielder Jared Oliva (No. 13), righty Luis Escobar (No. 16), outfielder Jason Martin (No. 18), starter JT Brubaker (No. 28) and Cederlind (No. 30) will all be in big league camp.
Where is the facility?
The Pirates are the rare team with two Spring Training locations in their spring home of Bradenton, Fla., south of St. Petersburg and just north of Sarasota.
Before games start, the club works out on the back fields of the Pirate City training complex, located at 1701 27th Street East in Bradenton. That is also where Minor League Spring Training takes place, so there’s plenty to be seen on the back fields even after the big club leaves.
When Grapefruit League games begin, the Pirates head about 3 1/2 miles west to LECOM Park, the ballpark formerly known as McKechnie Field, located at 1611 9th Street West in Bradenton.
Can fans attend workouts?
Yes, at Pirate City. Workout schedules are typically posted one day in advance.
The Pirates will begin their Grapefruit League schedule of exhibition games on Saturday, Feb. 22. They will host the Twins at LECOM Park, with first pitch set for 1:05 p.m. ET.
First TV game
The Pirates’ home game against the Tigers on Sunday, Feb. 23, will be televised on AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh. Overall, 14 of the Pirates’ spring games will be televised.
The full Spring Training broadcast schedule, including TV and radio broadcasts, can be found here.
One other notable game
Aren’t they all notable? OK, here’s one: Friday, March 13, the Pirates’ lone night game at LECOM Park this spring. They will play the Twins, with first pitch scheduled for 6:05 p.m. ET. That’s late enough in the spring, 13 days before Opening Day, that the Bucs could be running out a more representative lineup.
That game will air on AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh and KDKA-AM.
Last Grapefruit League game
The Pirates will break camp on March 24, when they head north to Lakeland, Fla., to play the Tigers in their final Grapefruit League game. Pittsburgh will play Detroit at 12:35 p.m. ET, but the club won’t go far after that.
Any additional exhibitions before the regular season?
Not this year.
Opening Day date, time, opponent and location
The Pirates will remain on Florida’s Gulf Coast even after Spring Training is over. Opening Day is Thursday, March 26, at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. The Rays will host Pittsburgh at 4:10 p.m. ET.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.