Sweet 16 … or Final 4?

T-minus 90 days to the home opener, 88 days until the 2011 Pioneer Baseball League season opens in Helena, and a matter of hours before a double-digit seed (or two) goes dancing from the Sweet 16 to the Elite Eight. Which means that either your bracket gets a much-needed shot in the arm, or it ends up headed to the shredder.

- From the sounds of things, Geoff Blum’s sore right knee could either be ready for Opening Day or for the operating table. The utility man’s absence from the Arizona Diamondbacks’ lineup card has allowed former Osprey shortstop Chris Owings (2009) to gain some valuable experience in Major League camp. His defense has been solid, but the bat – he went 0-for-4 in Wednesday’s Cactus League game against Texas – has been slow to come around. Owings is only 2-for-25 in 14 spring games, with a single, double and four runs scored.

- Sometimes, it pays to be the elder statesmen. In fact, as Lyle Overbay (1999) begins his first season with the Pirates, it’s his experience which will be a key ingredient, as well as his bat and his glove, to Pittsburgh’s success this season.

- Back to the D-backs, where it looks like there could be as many as four positions left to be earned on the pitching staff. One of those – left-handed reliever – will come down to either veteran Mike Hampton or former Osprey Jordan Norberto (2006). Norberto’s big spring has some thinking he may earn a spot, but it was his winter that started the eye-opening process for people around baseball.

- Catcher Miguel Montero (2002-03) is preparing for a season where he will be the No. 1 guy behind the plate for the D-backs, but he is striving for some big things this season.

- Last but not least, while the Major League teams will be breaking camp soon, their minor-league counterparts will be spending a few more days playing games before they break camp. In fact, the Class A schedule will go through April 1. Class A South Bend will not play at home for a while still – Coveleski Stadium is going through a facelift, including the installation of a turf field. Their annual scrimmage with Notre Dame, for example, will be played on ND’s campus – a mere five-minute drive from the park. And that’s on a bad traffic day. They will open with a pair of road series before returning home to start their first homestand of 2011.

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