CLEARWATER, Fla. – Even without the big-leaguers, mitts are a-poppin’ at the Phillies’ spring training complex. Top prospect Mick Abel and Andrew Painter both threw bullpen sessions Friday in front of a gaggle of club officials as the team’s minor-league minicamp rolled through its third day.
Official workouts for major-league pitchers and catchers were to have begun by now, but big-league players remain locked out as owners and the players association negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. The old one expired on December 1.
Major League Baseball on Friday cancelled the first week of spring training games. Games were scheduled to begin in Florida and Arizona on February 26. MLB said games would not start until March 5, at the earliest. This, of course, is contingent on the two sides reaching an agreement.
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Signs of urgency are beginning to show in the dispute. In a statement Friday, MLB said it would meet face-to-face with union officials on Monday. The statement said members of MLB’s bargaining committee would “remain every day next week to negotiate and work hard towards starting the season on time.”
The regular season is scheduled to begin on March 31 and the clock is ticking. Commissioner Rob Manfred said last week that teams would need 28 days to prepare for opening day. That would mean the two sides would need an agreement by the first day or two of March or else risk having regular-season games postponed.
MLB said fans who purchased tickets for any spring training game that does not take place can receive a full refund.