Yes, spring training has arrived

If it seems too early for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers to be reporting to spring training, that's because it is early. The Diamondbacks began to trickle in on Thursday for the start of their camp, and the Dodgers report this weekend.

Which means we'll start getting answers to spring's most pertinent questions, like: Will Yasiel Puig bring his driver with him?

The D-backs and Dodgers are reporting a week earlier than other teams because they will play two regular-season games in Australia, on March 22 and 23, before returning to Arizona for another week of exhibition games until the season kicks off again. But those two games in Australia count ... and will provide the first opportunity for Miguel Montero and Puig to make up. (Good luck with that.)

"We're excited to go to Sydney," Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson told MLB.com. "It will be really cool to do. It'll be good for baseball. I think we're all excited to go. I think the biggest challenge will be when we return, but we'll do what we can to make sure we recover very quickly."

Despite the travel difficulties, the Australia trip provides one obvious advantage for the Dodgers: They'll likely get an extra start out of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, since they'll presumably start the games in Australia, then the first two games back in the U.S.

For every other team, camps open late next week or next weekend.

Of course, some players don't yet know where they'll be reporting. Bronson Arroyo, Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Stephen Drew, Nelson Cruz, A.J. Burnett and Kendrys Morales are among the players still unsigned. The speculation over where they end up will make this first week of stretching and bunting drills a lot more interesting.

We'll get our usual plethora of "He's in the best shape of his life!" stories. Or the "He's added 20 pounds in the offseason!" stories. Remember when Mike Trout was too "fat" last spring? How did that work out?

That story will pop up again next week with Bryce Harper, who has reportedly added weight this year after dropping too many pounds during the season in 2013. But I'm less concerned about his weight than how surgery to repair the bursa sac in his left knee went and whether he can hit for six months the way he did last April.

We'll have two exciting imports to check out -- starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees and first baseman Jose Abreu of the White Sox. Be careful not to read too much into spring training results, however; I remember how in 2001 the Mariners were panicking when Ichiro Suzuki looked awful most of the spring.

There will be rookies to check out: Xander Bogaerts of the Red Sox and George Springer of the Astros, as well as the Twins' Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, at least until they're sent down to minor league camp.

There will be comebacks, most notably Mark Mulder, who signed with the Angels. He hasn't pitched since 2008; but after watching Paco Rodriguez of the Dodgers in the playoffs, he decided to try Rodriguez's delivery and throw again. He hit 90 mph on the radar gun and now he's going for a big league job.

We'll be without Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Roy Halladay, Todd Helton and Chris Carpenter, who all hung up their spikes. Yankees camp won't be the same without Rivera. It may also be the last one for Derek Jeter.

There will be expectations and hopes and home runs and curveballs that fall from the sky and line drives that you swear you can hear. There will be sun and beer and kids (and adults) testing their arm strength on the speed pitch game.

Baseball is back. And that, my friends, is a wonderful thing.