Grapefruit, Cactus League play begins as part of 6-game slate
By Chad Thornburg
Major League Baseball is back with the beginning of this year's spring exhibitions. Both the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues open play today with a six-game slate that features plenty of intrigue.
Among those games are the expected debuts of Madison Bumgarner and Michael Fulmer, along with the Yankees' first contest at the new-look George M. Steinbrenner Field. Fans can catch the Yankeess matchup against the Phillies as well as much of this spring's exhibition action streaming live on MLB.TV Premium.
MLB.TV Premium is only $112.99 for the entire season. In addition to getting every out-of-market game live or on demand during the regular season, you can watch nearly 300 Spring Training games live and blackout free, plus the World Baseball Classic live (U.S. only). This package has the best value and provides access to more than 400 devices and a free subscription to the MLB.com At Bat Premium app (a $19.99 value). It offers the best picture quality ever -- at 60 frames per second -- for supported devices, while other great features include choice of home or away broadcasts, live game DVR, multi-game viewing and more. Monthly signups for MLB.TV Premium are now underway as well for $24.99, and the MLB.TV Single Team package is also available as a $87.49 yearly subscription.
Here's what to watch for throughout the day (all times in ET):
Yanks, Phils clash at renovated Steinbrenner Field, PHI@NYY, 1:05 p.m., MLB.TV
This afternoon contest against the Phillies will offer Yankees fans their first look at the ongoing, $40 million renovation project at George M. Steinbrenner Field, as well as a first opportunity to cheer on the new designated hitter, Matt Holliday.
Holliday will be one of several regulars in the lineup, excluding Jacoby Ellsbury, who got a late start to camp so he could be present for the birth of his daughter. Prospects like Clint Frazier, Jorge Mateo and Gleyber Torres could also see significant time for this revamped Yankees squad.
"We haven't been this young in a long time; probably not since maybe 1996," manager Joe Girardi said. "There were a lot of young players, there was a lot of success, there were a lot of championships that followed. I think it's going to be a very exciting year."
MadBum set for Cactus League debut: CIN@SF, 3:05 p.m.
The Giants are set to start the spring season the same way they'll likely open the regular season on April 2 -- with Bumgarner on the mound. The Giants' ace is the biggest name slated to pitch Friday, taking on the Reds at Scottsdale Stadium, but the assignment isn't guaranteed should Bumgarner opt to delay his debut.
"I don't know for sure, but I think it's a pretty realistic option," said Bumgarner, who is coming off his fourth consecutive All-Star campaign. He went 15-9 with a 2.74 ERA over a career-high 226 2/3 innings in 2016.
For the Reds, Rookie Davis will toe the rubber. Davis is vying for a spot on Cincinnati's Opening Day roster.
Fulmer begins sophomore campaign: BAL@DET, 1:05 p.m.
The reigning American League Rookie of the Year will be on display when the Tigers host the Orioles in Lakeland, Fla. With his place in the Detroit rotation secure, the right-handed Fulmer is focused on improving his command of his fastball after emphasizing velocity in camp prior to his rookie season.
"I remember last year I'd get a bullpen [appearance] and honestly just throw as hard as I could, try to get some eyes going my way," Fulmer said. "But hopefully this spring's a little different story and I can actually take the time to work on my changeup and my slider and obviously fastball command."
The Tigers and O's will play in Detroit's newly renovated Spring Training home of Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium. The game will also feature a pregame ceremony honoring Tigers owner Mike Ilitch, who passed away earlier this month.
Top prospects meet in Fort Myers, NYM@BOS, 1:05 p.m.
Two of baseball's top five prospects, according to MLBPipeline.com, will take the field Friday when the Mets visit the Red Sox in Fort Myers, Fla. Outfielder Andrew Benintendi (No. 1 overall) will be in the lineup for Boston, while shortstop Amed Rosario (No. 5) is expected to see time for New York.
After months of speculation and player movement, the exhibition season provides opportunities for teams to get answers to the questions facing their rosters -- from emerging position battles to developing young talent like Benintendi and Rosario.
"It's time," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I think we've got to get guys out there and start playing."
Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.