The Pirates begin 2012 Spring Training in Bradenton, Florida as pitchers and catchers report on Saturday, February 18. Position players report on February 23, and the first full workout will begin the next day. The games begin March 2 -- here's a full schedule of Pirates Spring Training games. The Pirates' home Grapefruit League games are played at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, while many workouts and scrimmages, especially those involving minor leaguers, are free for the public to watch at Pirate City a few miles away.
The Pirates' offseason has been a relatively quiet one so far -- the team bid adieu to former catcher Ryan Doumit (now with the Twins), shortstop Ronny Cedeno (Mets) and Paul Maholm (Cubs), replacing those players with Rod Barajas, Clint Barmes and Erik Bedard, respectively. Bedard was a reasonably inspired addition, in that he typically pitches very well when he's healthy. Unfortunately, he isn't a great bet to throw even 100 innings, and the rest of the Pirates' rotation has all the stability of a sand castle in a hurricane. The Bucs are currently in the midst of trade talks to acquire A.J. Burnett from the Yankees. Yankee fans probably won't remember Burnett particularly fondly, but he's still capable of pitching 180 or so innings, and he should benefit from the N.L. Central division and from PNC Park, so he has a good chance of helping the Pirates.
The Pirates are likely to have yet another losing season in 2012, but if they don't, it will probably be in part because Bedard stayed healthy and because young hitters like Pedro Alvarez took a step forward. Alvarez had a miserable season in 2011, and some Pirates fans at McKechnie will be watching his at-bats closely to see if he's learned to recognize pitches and begin to channel his incredible power.
We'll have much more on Spring Training in the coming weeks. In the meantime, check out SB Nation's Pirates blog, Bucs Dugout.