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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Daniel Murphy isn’t sure whether he’ll be ready for Opening Day as he continues to recover from offseason knee surgery.

“I’m generally optimistic that when they put me in the lineup, I won’t come out,” Murphy said Tuesday when asked about his chances of being ready for the Washington Nationals‘ season opener against the Cincinnati Reds on March 29.

“You see these guys bouncing around and playing, you want to participate and be playing with your teammates,” said Murphy, who was the only position player not to participate in team drills Tuesday, one day before the Nats’ first official full-squad workout. “But I think it’s the understanding of when they loose me, when the training staff lets me go and it’s time to play, you only want to come off the DL once. I don’t want to start playing games and then have to stop. So that’s kind of the mindset we’re taking right now.”

New manager Dave Martinez echoed the sentiments of his veteran second baseman.

“I’m more concerned about rushing him and him not being fully ready,” Martinez said. “When we get him back, we don’t want him to go back on the DL, we want to get him back for the whole season.”

Murphy had debridement and microfracture surgery on his right knee in mid-October, shortly after Washington fell to the Chicago Cubs in the National League Division Series. More than four months later, he has regained full range of motion and is running at 60 percent weight-bearing on a treadmill, though he hasn’t yet been cleared to take swings.

“I’m excited about the progress,” said the 32-year old veteran, whose .322 average last season ranked second in the National League. “I think the work has been good. Currently right now, a lot of strengthening in the weight room, starting to get introduced to some baseball activities. Right now, it’s mostly just laying on the strength as much as we can to get my body and my leg ready.”

If Murphy isn’t ready by Opening Day, Washington has multiple options. Among them are 25-year-old infielder Wilmer Difo, who hit .271 in 124 games last season and played stellar defense while filling in for injured shortstop Trea Turner. Veteran utility man Howie Kendrick, who re-signed with the Nationals this offseason (two years, $7 million), also has extensive experience at second base.

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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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