If you are counting down the days to the competitive unveiling of the 2013 Pirates, set your timer to 86. The Bucs will kick off their Grapefruit League schedule with a Feb. 23 visit to Port Charlotte, Fla., to meet the Rays. That first of 33 exhibition games will come close on the heels of players' reporting dates in a Spring Training timetable affected by the 2013 World Baseball Classic. Pirates pitchers and catchers will report on Feb. 11, to be followed by the full squad on Feb. 14, with the first workouts for both groups on the ensuing dates.
Speaking of the Classic, the unofficial highlight of the Bucs' schedule at McKechnie Field will be a March 5 "friendly" game against Spain's entry in the international tournament. The Pirates' Spring Training schedule includes one other entry excluded from preseason records: The March 30 visit to Altoona, their Double-A affiliate, for their final preview prior to the April 1 season opener at PNC Park against the Cubs. Otherwise, the Bucs will be engaged in a remarkably American League-intensive Grapefruit League schedule. Of the 33 games, 29 will be against teams from the other league -- which will now include a home-and-home set with the Houston Astros (March 3 in Bradenton, Fla., and March 15 in Kissimmee, Fla.). The only two NL clubs on the Pirates' preseason schedule are the Phillies and the Braves, two games against each. The Red Sox, who will make two visits to McKechnie Field (Feb. 28, March 18), are one of three AL clubs whom the Pirates will see five times. The slate also includes five dates with the Rays and the Twins, but the most common opponent will be Baltimore. The Pirates will engage their Spring Training neighbors -- the Orioles' Sarasota, Fla., camp is within seven miles of Pirate City -- a total of seven times.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.