Major League Baseball makes changes

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NEW YORK — Baseball players and owners signed an agreement for a new labor contract Tuesday, a deal that makes baseball the first North American professional major league to start blood testing on human growth hormone and expands the playoffs to 10 teams by 2013.

The five-year deal collective bargaining agreement makes changes owners hope will increase competitive balance by pressuring large-market teams to rein in spending on amateur draft picks and international signings.

Other highlights of the deal include: players will be required to play in the All-Star game unless injured or excused; instant replay will be expanded to include decisions on foul lines and traps, subject to an agreement with umpires; players, managers and coaches may not use smokeless tobacco products during televised interviews and may not carry them in their uniforms; players arrested for DWI will be required to undergo mandatory evaluation; and players will start wearing improved batting helmets manufactured by Rawlings by 2013.

An initial positive test for HGH would result in a 50-game suspension, the same as a first positive urine test for a performance-enhancing substance.

“This was very important to me,” baseball commissioner Bud Selig said. “This really is in everyone’s best interest.”

Random testing for HGH will take place during spring training and the offseason, but there is no agreement yet on random testing in-season. There can be testing at any time for cause.

The deal, which still must be ratified by the players and owners, is the first contract since Michael Weiner replaced Donald Fehr as union leader last year.

As for the playoffs, there will be an additional two teams starting in 2012 or 2013 that will give baseball 10 of 30 clubs in the postseason. In the NFL, 12 of 32 teams make the playoffs. In the NBA and NHL, 16 of 30 advance.

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