Spring Training baseball is a sure sign of spring

While the Tri-State Area has, so far, managed to escape much of the bad winter weather we have come to expect, there are many signs that spring is not that far off, the most reliable of which happens this week.

That’s when pitchers and catchers report for Major League Baseball’s spring training. Which means that the start of exhibition games is not that far away and opening day is closer than most of us think.

Pitchers and catchers for the Pirates are scheduled to report today to Bradenton, Fla., with the first full squad workout set Friday. Fans throughout the area will be looking to see if the Pirates can rebound from a disappointing 2016 and return to the playoffs. They’ll also be watching closely to see how the team’s new outfield arrangement — Andrew McCutchen is moving to right, Starling Marte to center and Gregory Polanco to left — will work.

There also are many Cleveland fans in our area, and their attention will be focused on Goodyear, Ariz., the winter home of the Indians..

Cleveland actually got started Sunday, when their pitchers and catchers reported — their first full squad workout is set Saturday. The Indians will be looking to rebound from last year’s disappointing World Series loss to the Cubs.

It’s all in anticipation of the start of exhibition games. For the Pirates, that comes Feb. 25. It will be a split squad day, with a 1:05 p.m. game against Baltimore at the newly-renamed LECOM Park in Bradenton, and a 1:05 p.m. game against the Rays in Port Charlotte, Fla.

The Indians begin spring play at 3:05 p.m. Feb. 25 when they meet the Reds.

Those games don’t count, but fans will be watching closely for clues about what they will see when the regular season opens April 3. For the Pirates, opening day has 2:05 p.m. first pitch in Boston, and for the Indians it begins 7:05 p.m. at Texas.

Pittsburgh’s home opener is 1:05 p.m. April 7 when Atlanta visits PNC Park, while the Indians will open at home at 4:10 p.m. April 11 against the White Sox.