SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – While much of the nation is buried in snow, glazed by ice or just plain shivering in the cold, it’s time to play ball in the desert.
Spring training officially began Thursday when Arizona Diamondbacks pitchers and catchers reported, with their first workout set for Friday.
On the other side of suburban Phoenix, in Glendale, Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers and catchers report on Saturday.
Full-squad workouts for both teams begin next week.
The Diamondbacks and Dodgers get an early start because they will open the MLB season with a two-game series in Australia on March 22-23.
The rest of the teams begin workouts next week at their spring training haunts in Arizona and Florida.
Arizona’s reporting date signals the beginning of preparation for a season that won’t end until the World Series eight months from now.
The Diamondbacks are coming off consecutive 81-81 seasons and face the prospect, like the rest of the NL West, of trying to compete with the cash- and pitching-rich Dodgers.
Arizona wanted to add a veteran starter in the offseason and still may.
A person with knowledge of the situation said Thursday that the Diamondbacks were talking with representatives of Bronson Arroyo with the possibility of landing the 36-year-old right-hander. The person asked not to be identified because the talks had not been made public. The Dodgers and Baltimore Orioles also reportedly have interest in Arroyo.
If no changes are made, the Diamondbacks’ rotation is expected to include left-handers Patrick Corbin and Wade Miley and right-handers Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy. Young right-hander Randall Delgado and top minor league prospect Archie Bradley could vie for the other rotation spot.
Diamondbacks players went through informal workouts in relatively chilly weather, at least by Arizona standards, on Thursday. Temperatures were in the low 60s but were expected to rise to the high 70s over the weekend.
Kirk Gibson is entering his fourth season as manager and earlier this week got an extension of his contract, which had been set to expire this year. He said the early start to spring training will mean a larger gap between the start of full-squad workouts and the beginning of spring games.
“We’ll come in on the 11th and our first game’s on the 26th,” he said. “It gives us a challenge. We need to get our pitchers ready to be ready to go on March 22.”
After the long trip to Australia, the Diamondbacks and Dodgers will come back to Arizona to complete spring training before their stateside regular-season openers.
“The season’s going to be a little longer,” Gibson said, “but if you look at the other people that have played abroad early, I think there’s 10 teams that went and five of them have went to postseason play.”
Even though it’s an early start to spring training, McCarthy said players are more than ready to get back at it.
“In the last month is when you start to hit that boredom point,” he said. “You’re done with the offseason, you’re sick of your loved ones, you want to get out of your house. Now it turns real and you kind of get back to work.”
The other significant addition to the Diamondbacks pitching staff is Addison Reed, The 25-year-old right-hander had 69 saves the last two seasons with the Chicago White Sox, 40 last year. Arizona acquired him from the White Sox for third baseman Matt Davidson.
Reed hasn’t been anointed the Arizona closer yet, though, facing competition from the likes of J.J. Putz, David Hernandez and Brad Zeigler.
“Obviously everybody knows that I want to close. It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do,” Reed said, “but I’m here and whatever they have me do is what I’ll do and I’ll be happy to. As long as I’m out there throwing, I’ll be a happy guy.”
McCarthy said that a core group of Arizona players plans to take a bigger leadership role in the coming year.
“I think there’s a group of guys here that know exactly what they want,” he said. “Last year I think we were kind of getting there but we didn’t have that true leadership that really came through. It’s the one thing I’ve seen just in talking to guys so far, that here’s an idea of exactly what we want and I think we know how to implement that now.
“You’re going to see a clubhouse of guys that go out of their way to get things the way they want it, to set an attitude the way they want it.”