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MLB: No DH, draft changes on deck in ’19

The Associated Press

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred

The Associated PressORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Don’t look for a National League designated hitter this year or for new anti-tanking rules in June’s amateur draft.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Friday that management is focused on pace-of-game changes for 2019 and bolder ideas proposed by the players’ association are too complex to be put in place for this season.

Speaking Friday after an owners’ meeting, Manfred felt encouraged the union responded to management’s proposal for a pitch clock and a three-batter minimum for a relief pitcher unless an inning ends.

“Some of these items need to be part of broader discussions that certainly will continue after opening day, and I hope we can focus on some of the issues that need to get resolved quickly in the interim,” Manfred said.

Baseball is in its third year of a five-year labor deal, one in which the free-agent market has slowed considerably — even with premier players available such as Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Management would discuss larger changes as part of a deal for a new collective bargaining agreement extending beyond December 2021.

“I hope and I really do believe that there is a common interest between the players’ association, the players, the owners and the commissioner’s office in changes, whether they’re midterm or otherwise, that make our entertainment product the best it could possibly be,” Manfred said.

After the 2017 and 2018 seasons, players rebuffed management’s proposal for a pitch clock designed to speed up the pace of play. Management has the right to implement a clock, but Manfred has been reluctant to make on-field changes without players’ agreement.

Management presented its latest proposal Jan. 14, one that included a requirement that pitchers face at least three batters or finish an inning. Players responded Feb. 1 with a broader plan, renewing their push for the DH in all games, an earlier trade deadline aimed at discouraging teams with losing records from trading stars, increasing service time for top young stars called up early in the season and rewarding and penalizing teams in the draft based on their records.

“Those are significant economic issues. They are different in kind than the type of playing-rule changes that we have out there,” Manfred said. “I think that there are pieces of their response on the on-field proposal that were very encouraging. I think what needs to be sorted out is how closely the two agendas are tied, in other words, the on-field stuff and the economic stuff.”

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