Just around the corner…..

By Mark Newman
Updated: January 12, 2011

NEW YORK — Cliff Lee returns to Florida for Spring Training and Matt Garza moves to an Arizona camp for the first time. Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth will have new Florida camps. There will be a dozen managerial newcomers for their clubs in exhibitions, with Fredi Gonzalez becoming the first manager since 1990 other than Bobby Cox to lead the Braves into spring.

The D-backs and Rockies will share the game’s first spring home built on Native American land. The Giants and Rangers never played those last two possible World Series games, but they will meet twice right away in the Cactus League.

Hundreds of exhibitions are just up ahead, as fans await batter vs. pitcher again and the annual rite of spring. A month away from pitchers and catchers reporting, Major League Baseball on Wednesday announced the finalized Spring Training schedules for all clubs.

Feb. 13 is the voluntary reporting date for pitchers, catchers and injured players, and Feb. 18 is when all others may report to camps.

Then comes the long-awaited games, starting with the first Spring Training exhibition featuring Florida State at the Phillies on Feb. 24 in Clearwater, Fla.

The first actual exhibition between two Major League clubs is a day later featuring the D-backs at the defending World Series champion Giants in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Watching the Giants at Spring Training, the thought may cross your mind: They could go from that frustrating drought to baseball’s first repeat champions since the Yankees in 2000.

For the record, the franchise has repeated once before in its history, as the New York Giants. That was in 1921-22, beating Babe Ruth and the Yankees both times.

The first rematches of the 2010 World Series will be Rangers at Giants on March 7 and Giants at Rangers on March 13. After a long winter, we will be ready for Josh Hamilton vs. Tim Lincecum or maybe Matt Cain again. We’ll see if Brian Wilson has shaved by then, and what it feels like to see Buster Posey and Neftali Feliz as second-year Major Leaguers.

Feb. 26 will be Rockies at D-backs — and the grand opening of the new spring home they will share. Both clubs have partnered with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community to build Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the first Major League Baseball Spring Training facility to be built on Native American land in the nation.

Salt River Fields at Talking Stick will include an 11,000-seat capacity ballpark, a total of 12 practice fields and office buildings that will include Major and Minor League clubhouses, training facilities and offices for each team.

It will be a spring for new managers, that’s for sure. A full dozen of them will manage exhibitions, some of whom took over after last spring and most of whom were just named. Cox, Joe Torre, Cito Gaston and Lou Piniella will be notably absent from duty, now retired.

New to their spring homes will be Gonzalez (Braves), Don Mattingly (Dodgers), Edwin Rodriguez (Marlins), Terry Collins (Mets), Ron Roenicke (Brewers), Mike Quade (Cubs), Clint Hurdle (Pirates), Kirk Gibson (D-backs), John Farrell (Blue Jays), Buck Showalter (Orioles), Ned Yost (Royals) and Eric Wedge (Mariners).

Quade and Showalter will seek to pick up next spring where they left off, following impressive late runs by their respective clubs in 2010 after assuming their jobs.

In the latter’s case, Showalter’s Orioles play the first of their 16 home spring games at newly renovated Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla., on March 1 against the Rays. It will mark the second consecutive Spring Training for the Orioles in Sarasota, and the first in the newly renovated ballpark.

Enhancements to the fan experience include the addition of a two-story concourse with shaded views of the playing field; a new stucco facade with tile accents; refurbished stadium seats directly from Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore; additional private suites and party facilities; and a state-of-the-art audio/video system and video board.

Improvements to the player facilities include new dugouts and bullpens; a new half field with AstroTurf; refurbished batting cages; and a practice field with the same dimensions as Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Dodgers fans will be focused on their new manager sitting in a sunny seat outside the dugout, managing his new team as one of a bevy of incoming skippers.

But there is no doubt that Mattingly’s new shortstop, Juan Uribe, will draw special attention for one game in particular.

Circle March 4 on your calendar. It’s the Giants at Dodgers at Camelback Ranch, and it’s more than just a rivalry.

It’s that guy who just helped the Giants to the title now wearing Dodgers blue, and you know that more than a few Giants fans will drive over wielding those “Booribe” signs.

That’s Spring Training.

So is seeing new players, like Dunn. His home games will be at Camelback Ranch, too, now that he is a member of the White Sox, who share that facility. It will be Dunn’s first Spring Training in Arizona, following stints with the Reds and Nationals.

“It’s no secret that we have coveted Adam’s services for quite some time,” White Sox general manager Ken Williams said, “so it goes without saying how excited we are to bring him into the fold.”

The Yankees debut against the Phillies on Feb. 26, a Saturday game at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla. (A day later, they meet at the Phillies’ home.) That Yankees opener will be their first game played there since the venue’s namesake passed away.

Considering those circumstances and the fact that it’s a game between the two clubs that so many thought would be reunited in the last World Series (they were derailed), it will be a tough ticket.

Some things change and some things are always the same. Mike Lowell is retired and will not be fighting for a Red Sox job. But the club announced its annual Truck Day on Feb. 8 at Fenway Park, a modern rite of spring.

That is around the time that many other clubs will load up their big rigs and turn them loose on the highways for Spring Training.

Speaking of the Red Sox, they have sold out every Grapefruit League game at City of Palms Park since March 16, 2003, including 16 dates in ’10, increasing the club’s Grapefruit League sellout streak to 104 home games.

The upcoming season marks Boston’s 19th at City of Palms Park, where the team has trained since moving its Spring Training operation to Fort Myers, Fla., in 1993. The new facilities are currently under construction in Lee County, Fla., on Daniels Parkway and are scheduled to debut in ’12.

Who at last Spring Training predicted that the Rangers would go from those fundamental beginnings all the way to the World Series? Not many.

Now, they will be back there with hopes of taking it one step further in 2011.

Texas’ 31-game Arizona schedule features 16 contests at Surprise Stadium/Billy Parker Field. The Rangers will be the home team for 15 of those games and will be the visitors on Sunday, March 20, against the Royals, who share the Surprise complex with Texas.

Those two teams will play three times overall in Surprise in 2011, opening the spring schedule with consecutive games on Feb. 27-28, the latter date being the Surprise Sundancers Charity Game.

MLB Network will televise more than 60 Spring Training games, and that broadcast schedule will be announced when it becomes available. MLB Network will also once again televise its signature Spring Training series “30 Clubs in 30 Days” starting Feb. 28, with hour-long shows on each club previewing the 2011 season, reported from each of the Spring Training camps throughout Arizona and Florida.

Select exhibition games at Major League ballparks and other special venues will run from March 27-30, by which time the Grapefruit and Cactus League schedules will conclude. Thursday, March 31 will mark 2010 Opening Day, with six games scheduled.