If ever there were a team that desperately needed to get back on the field, it's the Baltimore Orioles. After the team's long, mostly inactive and much-criticized offseason, the Birds will be suiting up and preparing for the 2014 season, reporting to Sarasota, Fla., in February with the hopes of putting their sluggish winter behind them. Let's take a look at the top storylines to expect during Orioles spring training.
Though most of the team's projected starters will be reporting to camp healthy and ready to go, two of the most important players to the Orioles' future are attempting to bounce back from injuries.
Leaving aside all the other storylines of spring -- the position battles, the new faces, the projected roster -- the Birds' 2014 fate could hinge, first and foremost, on third baseman Machado's health. If the 21-year-old Machado -- who in 2013 was awarded the Rawlings Platinum Glove as the American League's best defender -- misses a significant amount of the season after offseason surgery on his left knee, the O's could find themselves facing an uphill battle from the get-go.
Machado's recovery from surgery will be one of the most intensely watched stories of spring training. The good news for the Orioles is his rehabilitation seems to be on schedule. On Feb. 1, Machado was cleared to start some baseball activities, though he was still restricted from running the bases. Machado likely won't be ready for game action when the Birds begin exhibition play Feb. 28, and he's no sure thing to return in time for the regular-season opener March 31. But if he can make it back on the field by early to mid-April and return to full form, things will be looking much brighter for the 2014 Orioles.
Don't expect to hear much from right-handed starter Bundy during spring training. The 21-year-old Bundy, who ESPN ranked as the top pitching prospect in baseball before the 2013 season, is working his way back from Tommy John surgery he underwent June 27, 2013. He'll likely spend the next few months in Sarasota, gradually increasing his throwing distance with the ultimate goal of returning to game action in the minors by the end of June.
Feb. 13: Pitchers and catchers report to spring training
Feb. 18: Full squad reports to spring training
Feb. 28: First spring training game (1:05 p.m. at Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte, Fla.)
March 1: First home spring training game (1:05 p.m. vs. Toronto Blue Jays in Sarasota, Fla.)
March 27: Final spring training game (7:05 p.m. vs. Tampa Bay Rays in Sarasota)
March 31: Regular-season opener (3:05 p.m. vs. Boston Red Sox in Baltimore)
- 2014 Orioles Spring Training Preview: Position Battles
- 2014 Orioles Spring Training Preview: Non-roster Invitees
- 2014 Orioles Spring Training Preview: 25-man Roster