ATLANTA — The Braves launch full-squad workouts for spring training in just under six weeks (Feb. 25 at the Walt Disney World complex in sunny Florida).
As an appetizer to that, here’s a look at 13 notable quirks from the club’s 2015 schedule:
1. The Braves will open and close the regular season with trips to Miami — a notable departure from the previous two campaigns, when Atlanta made its only trip to Milwaukee for Games 1-3 (2014), and the Chicago Cubs opened the Braves’ home slate for 2013 … only not to return again.
2. Outside of a strong thunderstorm, the Braves are essentially free from worrying about weather-related postponements for early and mid-April. Atlanta’s first 12 outings include a pair of trips to majestic Miami and dome-protected Toronto … and six home games against the Mets and Marlins (April 10-15).
3. Along those lines, here’s why the Braves don’t have an off day between their home opener (April 10 vs. the Mets) and Game No. 2 of that three-game set:
Atlanta hasn’t had a home opener postponed, due to inclement weather, since 1978.
4. This one’s more interesting than quirky: It’s plausible the Braves will face Mets dynamos Matt Harvey (possible Cy Young candidate, missed 2014 to injury) and Zack Wheeler (a breakout candidate for 15 wins, a 3.10 ERA and 200 strikeouts) four times in the season’s first two weeks.
5. The Braves shall encounter at least one American League opponent for all six primary months of the schedule: @ Blue Jays (April 17-19), vs. Rays (May 19-20), @ Red Sox (June 15-16), vs. Red Sox (June 17-18), @ Orioles (July 27-29), @ Rays (Aug. 11-12), vs. Yankees (Aug. 28-30), vs. Blue Jays (Sept. 15-17).
6. Atlanta has three extended road trips of nine or more games by June 3 — including a 10-game West Coast swing through Los Angeles (Dodgers), San Francisco and Arizona.
After that, the Braves have only one series westof the Rocky Mountains: Aug. 17-19 at San Diego.
7. The Braves will be on the road for both Memorial Day (@ Dodgers) and Labor Day (@ Phillies), the opposite of last season’s schedule.
8. How’s this for balance? Citing the primary period of April to September, the Braves will have at least 10 home and 10 away games per month.
9. To counterbalance that travel-friendly slate, the Braves have five different periods of 15-plus consecutive games, without a planned off day.
The final one’s a doozy, with home encounters against the Yankees, Marlins (Aug. 31-Sept. 2), Mets (Sept. 10-13) … and roadies with the Nationals (Sept. 3-6) and Phillies (Sept. 7-9).
10. For June 15-18, all 30 MLB teams will partake in an extended series with an Interlague rival, split between two cities. The Braves’ partner in this all-encompassing initiative — for a second straight season — will be the Red Sox, beginning in Boston (June 15- 16) and ending in Atlanta (June 17-18).
11. From June 12-21, the Braves will be knee-deep in scouting reports featuring the Red Sox and Mets. For those 10 games, Atlanta will have four mini-series against Boston and New York — two road, two home.
12. Atlanta will have at least five consecutive games for every home stand — minus a curious in-and-out weekend fling with the Diamondbacks in mid-August.
In-between that series? The Braves have a quick two-game roadie against the Rays … and then a seven-game road voyage with the Padres and Cubs.
And finally …
13. If Major League Baseball had known new Braves personnel czar John Hart would trade Jason Heyward to the St. Louis Cardinals before the Winter Meetings, they would have undoubtedly finagled the baseball-matrix schedule, in terms of touting Heyward’s return to Atlanta for June or July — and preferably for prime-time national TV.
Instead, the Cardinals don’t make it to Atlanta until Oct. 2-4 — the final three games of the regular season.
Bottom line: If the Braves and/or Cardinals aren’t in playoff contention on the final weekend, it’s quite possible Heyward’s return might be an anti-climactic homecoming — especially in a football-mad metropolis like Atlanta.