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JUPITER, Fla. — Adam Wainwright always had a knack for getting out of jams.

Even while struggling with control in his Grapefruit League debut, the St. Louis Cardinals star escaped unscathed.

The 36-year-old righty walked three and gave up two hits in two scoreless innings Thursday in a 3-3 tie with Minnesota. He struck out three but only threw 26 of his 47 pitches for strikes.

“I hit location about half the time, which is not nearly good enough but is a stepping stone,” Wainwright said.

Wainwright’s fastball mostly was in the high 80-mph range. Only a handful of his heaters hit 90 mph or above on the ballpark’s radar gun. His curveball is still a devastating pitch.

“When he got in trouble, he did what Waino does, which is he gets better,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said.

Wainwright’s velocity dipped significantly last season, and toward the end his fastball often didn’t leave the low 80s.

“Last year I was hurt,” said Wainwright, who underwent minor elbow surgery during the offseason but is healthy now.

Prior to Thursday’s outing, Matheny said he hadn’t been concerned this spring with Wainwright’s velocity. After seeing Wainwright touch 91 a couple times against the Twins, Matheny speculated that the velocity could climb a bit more throughout the spring.

While Wainwright struggled with command, he changed speeds, created deception by varying his throwing motion, and worked both high and low in the strike zone.

“No matter what that velocity is, well located with the right kind of movement and late life, and being able to change eye levels, that’s pitching,” Matheny said. “And next thing you know you see that guy standing out there late in the game.”

Wainwright’s respectable 12-5 record last season tied him for most wins among Cardinals, but his 5.11 ERA hardly alludes to the elite pitcher Wainwright once was. A double-digit win total despite a sky-high ERA does, however, indicate the kind of competitor Wainwright is.

“It’s about making pitches and that’s something Adam does,” Matheny said. “And then, you cannot put a value on heart. I love that idea. Don’t rule out these guys who have been superstars. There’s something that made them great for a long period of time. There’s talent, but a lot of it’s the character of who they are and how they compete. No one can question that about Adam Wainwright.”

Matheny compared the transition Wainwright is undergoing in an attempt to extend his career to that of 20-year veteran Bartolo Colon, currently in Texas Rangers camp on a minor league invite.

“He completely changed,” Matheny said of Colon. “I remember seeing him when he came up with Cleveland. He was throwing hard — real hard — and he’s had to morph into a pitcher that can get outs. He turned into an absolute turbo sinker guy that wasn’t lighting up the gun at all, but it was freakish.”

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MLB, players’ union meet for 1st CBA talks, sources say

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Leaders from Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association met Tuesday for their first official negotiating session a little more than six months before the sport’s collective bargaining agreement lapses, sources told ESPN.

The long-anticipated meeting between the sides marked the first foray into what many in the sport fear could be a contentious and protracted negotiation, with the possibility of a work stoppage upon the Dec. 1 expiration of the current deal. Relations between the league and players have grown combative in recent years, with both sides accusing the other of operating in bad faith amid multiple failed efforts to reach deals.

The league and union declined to comment on the discussions.

At the same time, baseball has found unprecedented economic success amid more than a quarter-century of labor peace, and players and officials likewise continue to express hope that the differences between the sides can be bridged during the next half-year of discussions. Owners and players both understand that the $10 billion-a-year industry could be gravely harmed by a labor dispute.

The meeting, held over videoconference, included dozens of people, including player leadership. It was the first negotiating session between the sides since the union turned down MLB’s offer for a paused-and-shortened season with full pay that included expanded playoffs. Between those discussions and the failed negotiations about when to resume the delayed season in 2020 that led to commissioner Rob Manfred implementing a 60-game season, mistrust between the sides deepened and fostered the pessimism about the chances of an on-time agreement that percolate around the game.

Negative feelings on the players’ side have festered since the last basic agreement was instituted Dec. 1, 2016, and further tilted the sport’s economics in favor of the teams. Player salaries have dropped for three consecutive seasons — and are expected to fall in 2021, too. While the best players in the sport continue to reap massive windfalls — from the $300 million-plus contracts of Mookie Betts, Fernando Tatis Jr., Francisco Lindor and Gerrit Cole to the $40 million salary this year for Trevor Bauer — MLB’s middle class has contracted significantly.

An overhaul of baseball’s core economic system is highly unlikely, sources said, citing the limited amount of time to strike a deal and keep labor peace uninterrupted since 1995. The union nevertheless intends to target spending and competitive integrity — particularly the promotion of competition by all teams — among its priorities with a new deal. Players are also in favor of funneling money to players earlier in their careers, the potential for free agency before six years of service and a solution to — or at least remedy of — service-time manipulation.

MLB, whose efforts to tie an expanded postseason to a pause this season were rebuffed by the union this spring, is expected to pursue a larger playoff field than the 10 teams that will participate this October. The league has also spent significant time and effort looking at potential rule changes that would help increase action in games and speed them up, measures that could be considered at the bargaining table.

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Derek Chauvin verdict reaction – The sports world responds on social media

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On Tuesday, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty to the charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

Floyd, 46, died on May 25, 2020, while in Minneapolis police custody. Bystander videos showed that Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, and the county medical examiner ruled the death a homicide. After the release of the video, the Minneapolis Police Department fired Chauvin and the three other officers involved, and Chauvin was charged with the three crimes. He pleaded not guilty to all three.

Last summer, athletes boycotted games in multiple leagues to protest the deaths of Black men and women caused by law enforcement. Here’s what the sports world had to say about Tuesday’s verdict:



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Asked about negotiating a new deal during season with Atlanta Braves, NL MVP Freddie Freeman says it ‘would be a distraction’

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Freddie Freeman, the 2020 National League MVP, indicated Tuesday that he is apparently not interested in negotiating a long-term contract extension with the Atlanta Braves during the regular season. Freeman is eligible for free agency after the 2021 season.

“I don’t know if we could really even talk right now,” Freeman said on a Zoom call before Tuesday’s game at Yankee Stadium. “That would be a distraction, and I don’t like distractions. I don’t think there is going to be much talking any time soon.”

The Braves, who lost to the Yankees, 3-1, in the series opener, drafted Freeman out of high school in 2007 and he reached the majors in 2010 and has been the focal point of the Atlanta offense ever since. A four-time All-Star, he has finished in the top eight of the MVP voting five times. He already signed one long-term deal with the Braves, an eight-year, $135 million contract that ran from 2014 through this season.

Near the end of spring training, Freeman told MLB.com that the Braves, owned by Liberty Media Corporation, had yet to approach him or his agents about a new deal.

“There [are] no negotiations,” Freeman added Tuesday, indicating he was only worried about Jameson Taillon, the Yankees’ starter Tuesday night.

Freeman is hitting .233/.387/.517 after the loss to the Yankees, with five home runs and an NL-leading 14 walks. He turns 32 in September.

He went 1-for-4 on Tuesday.

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