Union will defend players' rights in domestic violence cases

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) Baseball union head Tony Clark began his tour of the 30 spring training camps by pointing out that his group will defend the rights of players under investigation for domestic violence.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred put Colorado shortstop Jose Reyes on paid leave this week pending a trial scheduled to start April 4. Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman and Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig also are under investigation by MLB.

''It's going to be very important that despite what has been written and what has been offered publicly, that due process plays itself out,'' Clark said Thursday. ''The reality is we're having dialogue and we'll continue to, that the rights of the players involved will be protected.''

Clark and union staff are speaking with players ahead of the start of bargaining on a labor contract to replace the one that expires Dec. 1.

''We'll address the guys more of what to expect over the course of the year and appreciate that there are a lot of moving pieces,'' he said.

An agreement was reached in 2006 during the World Series and in 2011 in November, both times ahead of the expiration of the previous deal. This will be the first labor contract since Clark became union head following the death of Michael Weiner.

''There's an appreciation for this year being a little bit different,'' Clark said.

On other topics:

QUALIFYING OFFERS

Clark has criticized the impact of qualifying offers on some free agents, whose markets are weakened because of draft-pick compensation. Pitcher Yovani Gallardo (Baltimore) and outfielder Dexter Fowler (Chicago Cubs) did not reach agreements until Thursday, and shortstop Ian Desmond remains unsigned after turning down a $15.8 million qualifying offer in November from the Washington Nationals.

''It has created some issues both on baseball's side and on the players' side,'' Clark said. ''I don't know that it is beneficial to anyone to have quality players sitting at home, particularly ones that can impact a team or enhance a team's ability to put their best team on the field. That is one of the conversations that I expect to have.''

INTERNATIONAL DRAFT

''It sounds nice,'' Clark said. ''But the truth is the dynamic that currently exists in any one of the international countries is such that it's a very dangerous proposition to drop what some believe is a broken process here in any country where the infrastructure will have a difficult time with it.''

DESIGNATED HITTER

''People are always looking for offense seemingly, and the idea that adding another hitter to the lineup may provide some of that,'' he said. ''But based on player commentary that we've got, I can't suggest that our group is committed to moving or looking to move or agree to a move at this time, that's going to shift that thing one way or another.''

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