Here's a little ray of sunshine to brighten your mood at the end of an uneventful week for the Nationals in Dallas: The spring training schedule is out, and it's only 72 days until pitchers and catchers report to Viera, Fla.
The Nationals announced their official reporting dates today: Pitchers and catchers are due on Feb. 19, position players arrive on Feb. 23 and the first full-squad workout is scheduled for Feb. 25 on the practice fields adjacent to Space Coast Stadium.
This will be the franchise's 10th consecutive spring in Viera, and it could be one of its last. Ownership has made no secret of its desire to relocate to a new spring facility, preferably on Florida's Gulf Coast (perhaps in Arizona, though that appears to be a last-resort threat).
Why the motivation to move? A glance at the upcoming Grapefruit League schedule reveals the answer. Because there are now only three other clubs training on Florida's east coast (the Mets, Cardinals and Marlins), the Nationals will have to make three separate cross-state trips in March. They'll play the Yankees in Tampa on March 16, the Orioles in Sarasota on March 24 and the Red Sox in Fort Myers on April 2.
Despite their desire to move, the Nationals will need to find either a municipality willing to construct a new facility or another organization and facility willing to expand to accommodate a second tenant. The Nationals have held some discussions with Osceola County (outside Orlando) about a new facility to share with the Houston Astros and have also looked at Fort Myers (which will have an open facility once the Red Sox move into a new complex next year).
Members of ownership have also toured facilities in Arizona and have mentioned the Cactus League as a possible alternative if they can't find a suitable location in Florida, but that seems a long shot at best. No major-league franchises east of Cleveland currently train in Arizona.
Principal owner Mark Lerner said in March it's unlikely the Nationals would be able to relocate before 2014.
Here's the full (though tentative) spring training schedule. Dates and times are subject to change...
2012 NATIONALS SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULEFeb. 19: Pitchers and catchers reportFeb. 23: Position players reportFeb. 25: First full-squad workoutMar. 3: vs. Astros in Kissimee, 1:05 p.m.Mar. 4: vs. Astros in Viera, TBAMar. 5: vs. Mets in Port St. Lucie, 6:10 p.m.Mar. 6: vs. Braves in Lake Buena Vista, 1:05 p.m.Mar. 7: vs. Cardinals in Viera, TBAMar. 8: vs. Astros in Viera, TBAMar. 9: vs. Marlins in Jupiter, 7:05 p.m.Mar. 10: (ss) vs. Mets in Viera, TBA; (ss) vs. Tigers in Lakeland, 1:05 p.m.Mar. 11: vs. Cardinals in Jupiter, 1:05 p.m.Mar. 12: vs. Cardinals (ss) in Viera, TBAMar. 13: vs. Tigers in Viera, TBAMar. 14: vs. Braves in Lake Buena Vista, 6:05 p.m.Mar. 15: vs. Yankees in Viera, TBAMar. 16: vs. Yankees in Tampa, 1:05 p.m.Mar. 17: vs. Marlins (ss) in Viera, TBAMar. 18: vs. Tigers in Viera, TBAMar. 19: OffMar. 20: vs. Mets in Port St. Lucie, 6:10 p.m.Mar. 21: vs. Braves in Viera, TBAMar. 22: vs. Cardinals in Jupiter, TBAMar. 23: vs. Astros in Kissimmee, 1:05 p.m.Mar. 24: vs. Orioles in Sarasota, 1:05 p.m.Mar. 25: vs. Mets in Viera, TBAMar. 26: vs. Astros in Viera, TBAMar. 27: vs. Marlins in Jupiter, 1:05 p.m.Mar. 28: vs. Mets in Port St. Lucie, 1:10 p.m.Mar. 29: (ss) vs. Braves in Viera, TBA; (ss) vs. Tigers in Lakeland, 6:05 p.m.Mar. 30: vs. Marlins in Viera, TBAMar. 31: vs. Cardinals in Viera, TBAApr. 1: vs. Cardinals in Jupiter, 1:05 p.m.Apr. 2: vs. Red Sox in Fort Myers, 1:35 p.m.Apr. 3: vs. Red Sox at Nationals Park, TBA