BRADENTON -- Forget the groundhog.
There is a more reliable sign of spring.
It can be summed up in four wonderful words: Pitchers and catchers report.
Monday is the day in Bradenton, as 38 Pittsburgh Pirates pitchers and catchers check in at Pirate City, prepared for spring training and the 2013 season.
The first official workout will be at noon Tuesday, then the Pirates will settle into a practice routine that will see them on the field from 9:30 a.m. to noon each day. The first full-squad workout is Friday.
It all leads up to the first Grapefruit League game Feb. 23, followed a day later by the first home game at a renovated McKechnie Field.
The Pirates, fresh off another late-season fade that saw them fall of out of contention in the National League Central and suffer their 20th straight losing season, are raring to go.
Pittsburgh signed established free agents in catcher Russell Martin and pitcher Francisco Liriano to go along with promising young talent in outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte and third baseman Pedro Alvarez.
"(General Manager) Neal Huntington and the baseball ops staff have been working hard trying to improve the roster," said Jim Trdinich, the Pirates' media relations director. "The end of last
year left a bitter taste in our mouth. It was still a productive season, winning 79 games. But the last month of the season was kind of a kick in the butt after playing so well for the first four or five months."
It was mostly quiet Sunday morning at Pirate City, but the Pirates' newest acquisition, Liriano, got in some work on a back field.
Liriano is recovering from a fractured humerus bone in his non-throwing arm. He suffered the injury in December just days after he and the Pirates agreed to a two-year, $14 million contract.
The Pirates and Liriano finalized a reworked deal Friday that will pay the 29-year-old lefty a guaranteed $1 million in 2013 with incentives that could net him $5.25 million this year and $8.5 million in 2014 if he pitches 200 innings a season.
With his right arm in a brace Sunday, Liriano threw about 75 short tosses with the team's medical staff looking on. He is not expected to work out with the rest of the pitchers on Tuesday and is a long shot to be ready for Opening Day.
Workouts are free and open to the public. Players are generally more accessible to fans than they would be during the regular season or even during Grapefruit League games.
Trdinich said the best time to get autographs is at the end of the daily workouts.
"The best place for autographs is at Pirate City, out at the area where the fields meet. Another place is right by the half field that's at the end of the batting cages," Trdinich said.