At long last, it’s reporting day in West Palm Beach

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - It’s been a long, slow four months since Game 5 of the National League Division Series, and it only felt longer and slower because of the lack of baseball news - not only in Washington, but across the sport - during the strangest offseason in recent memory.

But the long wait is over, and it’s OK to smile just a bit this morning. Because Nationals pitchers and catchers officially are reporting for spring training.

(Pause here for applause.)

Ballpark-of-the-Palm-Beaches-Sidebar.jpgAs always, reporting day is something of a misnomer. There won’t be any formal activities on the practice fields today. Pitchers and catchers merely need to show up to The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches and announce their presence (preferably with authority). Actually, they don’t even technically have to show up at the ballpark; they simply can inform the club they’ve arrived in town.

Many pitchers and catchers, plus a handful of position players, have been here for a week, two weeks, even more, trying to get a leg up on their preparation for the season. Hopefully, we’ll see many of them today.

The first official pitchers and catchers workout won’t take place until Friday, with tomorrow reserved for physicals. There will be an optional workout tomorrow, though, for anyone who has already completed his physical and wants to participate.

So consider this something of a soft opening to camp.

If you’re in town or planning to come to town, you’ll be able to start watching the workouts up close on Friday. We don’t have an exact start time yet, but it figures to be somewhere in the 9:30-10 a.m. range at the cloverleaf fields behind the right field corner of the stadium. Workouts in the past have run approximately two hours, perhaps longer if any early arriving position players decide to come out to take batting practice. But given the new coaching staff, we can’t say for certain if anything is going to change from previous years.

Pitcher and catcher workouts continue for five days, with position players set to report Monday and then take their physicals Tuesday. That leaves only two days of official full-squad workouts next week (Feb. 21-22) before the Grapefruit League commences Feb. 23 against the Astros.

We’ll be chronicling all of it for you right here, with updates throughout the day. I’ll be here through the game on March 4, at which point Pete Kerzel will take over and give me a chance to go home and reacquaint myself with the family. I’ll return on March 13 for the duration of camp, which concludes March 25.

MASN is scheduled to broadcast seven games live this spring, with Bob Carpenter, F.P. Santangelo and “TV’s Dan Kolko” calling the contests on Feb. 25, plus March 6, 11, 13, 16, 21 and 23.

And we’re also adding some special extra coverage this year, with the digital “MASN All Access” crew producing live shows from the complex beginning Friday afternoon. We’ll share more specific times and planned guests later in the week, but if you’re not already following MASN Nationals on Facebook and Twitter, be sure to do so and you’ll get all the alerts for the live streaming shows.

This figures to be a particularly important spring in advance of a particularly important season, and we’ll lead you through it every step of the way. Thanks as always for reading and watching. And now ... it’s time for baseball!

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