Fort Lauderdale, Fla. -- Union chief Donald Fehr held his annual spring training meeting with Orioles players yesterday and emerged typically noncommittal about the topics discussed.
But Fehr said he's hopeful that the game's healthy economic state will lead to easier negotiations for a new labor deal. The current agreement ends in December. "We don't categorize how the meeting went other than to say it went well," he said of the 90-minute session with the Orioles.
Fehr has met with eight teams and will meet with all 30 before the season begins. He said it's too early to say which issues will dominate labor negotiations this year or whether those bargaining sessions will be contentious.
"I do not expect to hear some of the kinds of things that sometimes we've heard in the past about widespread financial distress," he said. "We'll see. It's not up to me."
The sides went to the last hour in 2002 before reaching the current agreement. They have since reopened the deal twice to toughen baseball's drug-testing policy. With six different champions in the past six years, commissioner Bud Selig has toned down his rhetoric about a lack of competitive balance. And Major League Baseball raked in a record $4.7 billion in revenues last year.
The commissioner hasn't threatened contraction in several years and Fehr said, "No one has suggested to me that it's a live issue." Some are complaining about the sport's revenue-sharing plan but that fight may brew more between small-market and large-market owners than between the owners and players.
Fehr said the relationship between the union and owners is much more frequent or businesslike than it was 10 or 12 years ago. On drug testing, Fehr said the union has "no plans to reopen negotiations." The drug agreement lasts through 2008.
"I really don't know how much stronger it can get," said Jay Gibbons, the Orioles' player representative. On substances such as vitamin B-12, which are legal but have been linked to the steroid controversy, Fehr said: "We have taken steps to make sure as best we can that players understand that they have to be very careful with what they do. They have a responsibility to exercise caution. Hopefully, they will."
Mora not wavering
A day after pulling out of the World Baseball Classic because of what he thought was disrespect by the Venezuelan Baseball Federation, Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora said that he has no plans to change his mind.
Mora, who left the door open on Sunday to an about-face and playing for Venezuela, said yesterday that his decision was final.
"I already made my decision," said Mora. "I am not going to go there. If I go back, they are going to think I made up the lineup so I can play third base. I am not that kind of guy. I tried to make it easy on them. I hope the fans understand."
Mora wasn't pleased that Venezuelan officials planned on moving him to the outfield, rather than Florida Marlins star Miguel Cabrera, who is 12 years younger than Mora and played outfield for much of last season. Cabrera told Marlins beat reporters yesterday that he wasn't aware of Mora's comments .
"Ask him why he should play third instead of me," Cabrera said.
Richard Hidalgo, who signed a minor league deal with the Orioles on Sunday, drove in yesterday from Orlando, Fla., and was expected to be in Fort Lauderdale by last night.
Hidalgo's physical is scheduled for this morning. Orioles vice president Jim Duquette said that the 30-year-old outfielder could take part in today's workout, depending on how long the physical takes.
Around the horn
Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said that reliever Todd Williams, who has been shut down because of shoulder soreness, won't throw off a mound for at least another week. ... Delayed by visa problems, nonroster invitees Napoleon Calzado, Eddy Garabito and Eddy Rodriguez finally arrived at camp.