Put down that shovel. Close your eyes. Listen.

Hear that? It’s the sound of popping mitts and batting practice. Pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers, Fla., in just 18 days. You can make it.

Close your eyes. Think about all that pitching. Will Josh Beckett finally return to his 2007 form? Can Jon Lester have an April that matches the rest of his season? Will Jonathan Papelbon still be on the team come Aug. 1?

Put down the ice-melter. Close your eyes. Listen.

It’s a trendy bar in Manhattan, and Yankees GM Brian Cashman is serving drinks. That was just one of several appearances for Cashman this week, all of them curiously candid. Derek Jeter in the outfield? Signing Rafael Soriano was a mistake? And, get this, Cashman actually said the Red Sox, on paper, are better than the Yankees.

Close your eyes. Listen. That sound is George spinning in his grave.

Put down that ice scraper. Close your eyes. See that? Carl Crawford just stole third. J.D. Drew is in the lineup for five straight days!

Hear that? Kevin Youkilis is jawing at the ump. Jacoby Ellsbury is in the lineup for two straight days!

OK, open your eyes again. That’s still a lot of snow out there. But spring is almost here. Honest.

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