Spring in the air as MLB training camps open

Mon Feb 11, 2013 3:31pm EST
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By Larry Fine

(Reuters) - The calendar may still read February, but for restless baseball fans spring has arrived with pitchers and catchers reporting to diamonds in Arizona and Florida to begin Major League Baseball (MLB) Spring Training.

The slap of the hardball into leather mitts will be heard in Florida when the American League pennant winning Detroit Tigers join nine other teams opening training camps on Monday, while the World Series champion San Francisco Giants highlight another 15 clubs getting down to business on Tuesday.

By Wednesday, players on all 30 MLB teams will be loosening up their arms and strengthening their legs to prepare for a 162-game, six-month season that kicks off March 31.

With an MLB probe into possible doping infractions pegged to an anti-aging clinic in Florida hanging over the sport, lovers of the game could not be blamed for looking forward to focusing on the action between the lines.

The wait will not be long as Spring Training games start February 22 in both the Cactus (Arizona) and Grapefruit (Florida) leagues, a week earlier than usual to accommodate the March 2-19 World Baseball Classic in which Japan will aim for a third successive triumph.

The opening game of MLB's regular season will feature an intra-state rivalry as the Texas Rangers head to Houston to play the Astros on March 31 in their first game as a fellow member of the American League West division.

Houston's shift from the National League gives each league 15 teams and creates a steady diet of interleague play with one such series taking place virtually every day of the season.

The Cincinnati Reds, last year's winners of the NL Central, will host the Los Angeles Angels on April 1, becoming the first teams to start their seasons with an interleague match-up.   Continued...

New York Yankees outfielders (from L) Melky Mesa, Curtis Granderson and Thomas Neal take to the field during an informal workout at the team's minor league training complex in Tampa, Florida, February 11, 2013. REUTERS/Steve Nesius