With Seahawk fever reaching epidemic proportions, I feel it necessary to remind everyone that Mariners’ pitchers and catchers report to the Peoria Sports Complex on Feb. 13 (33 days from now). The first workout is Feb. 14, followed by the first full-squad workout on Feb. 19.
In that spirit (and blatantly ripping off an idea by my pal Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News), here are 10 exhibition games that might interest those of you who plan to make the trek to Arizona. (Here is the Mariners’ entire spring-training schedule).
1, March 1: Texas Rangers vs. Mariners, at Peoria: Two games into the Cactus League schedule, it’s the first chance to get a measure of the defending American League West champions — and the defending AL champions, too. Cliff Lee is gone, but ex-Mariner Adrian Beltre has joined American League MVP Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler and the rest of the Rangers.
2, March 25: Mariners vs. Chicago Cubs, at Mesa; Mariners vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, at Peoria. This could be an epic split-squad doubleheader for the dedicated fan. At 1:05 p.m., the M’s take on the Cubs at HoHoKam Park, where the atmosphere is always lively; and at 7:05 p.m., they host the Dodgers, who will be training in Arizona for the third season after leaving their long-time home in Vero Beach, Fla. in 2009.
3, March 8: Mariners vs. San Francisco Giants, at Peoria. This is the only chance to see the Mariners play the World Series champs in Peoria (not since 2002, when the Angels defeated the Giants in seven games, have both World Series teams trained in Arizona). The Mariners travel to Scottsdale to meet the Giants two days earlier, on March 6.
4, March 2: Mariners vs. Arizona Diamondbacks, at Salt River Fields (Scottsdale). The Cactus League isn’t expanding this year; it’s actually contracting — not in the number of teams, which remains at 15, but geographically. Specifically, the last two teams have left Tucson and will be training at a $100-million shared facility called Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. It’s located just east of Scottsdale (northwest of Loop 101 and Indian Bend Road, for those who know the area). Casino Arizona is about a tape-measure home run away, for those so inclined. The new ballpark will be shared by the Diamondbacks and Rockies, and this will be the Mariners’ first appearance. They play the Rockies at Salt River on March 23 and March 29 (their final Cactus League game before flying to Los Angeles for an exhibition game at Dodger Stadium on March 30).
5, Feb. 27: Mariners vs. San Diego Padres, at Peoria: This is the annual Charity Game that kicks off the spring training season, and the first chance to see Eric Wedge in action in the dugout. And who doesn’t get excited over an another renewal of the heated Mariner-Padre rivalry?
6, March 27: Mariners vs. Texas Rangers, at Peoria: As Evan pointed out, this game is exactly five days from Opening Day (which is April 1 at Oakland), so both teams should trot out their Opening Day starter. Yes, the mystery will final be solved: Will it be Doug Fister or, I don’t know, Felix Hernandez?
7, March 5: Mariners vs. Cleveland Indians, at Peoria: Not only will it be Wedge’s first appearance against his old team, but fans could get a look at local product Grady Sizemore , who is trying to come back from left knee surgery that ended his 2010 season after just 33 games. The Indians have said they expect Sizemore to be ready for Opening Day, but also said recently he is unlikely to be ready for the start of the Cactus League season. Whether or not he’ll be playing by March 5 (or when the two teams meet again March 11 in Goodyear) is unknown. Even if he doesn’t, fans can watch Shin-Soo Choo and wince.
8, March 4: Mariners vs. Cincinnati Reds, at Peoria: This is a chance to not only see the National League MVP, Joey Votto, but perhaps get a gander at the fastball of Aroldis Chapman, who threw a pitch clocked at 105 mph last year.
9, March 10: Mariners vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, at Peoria: This is the only Peoria appearance of the Angels, who had owned the AL West until falling to 80-82 last year. The A’s make their only Peoria appearance two days later, on March 12.
10, March 28: Mariners vs. Colorado Rockies, at Peoria: The final home game of the spring for the Mariners, and the long-awaited return of Jose Lopez.