NEW YORK -- Baseball players and owners agreed to start labor negotiations Tuesday, two months and a day after their previous collective bargaining agreement expired.
The sides set the date Friday, when arbitrator Shyam Das heard his seventh day of testimony in the union's grievance to block owners from eliminating two teams before next season.
Union lawyer Michael Weiner, the second witness in the hearing, completed his second day of testimony. Union head Donald Fehr followed and finished his direct testimony. The hearing recessed until next Thursday as management lawyers were in the midst of their cross-examination.
Das, who already had agreed to continue the hearing on Jan. 10 and 11, told the sides Friday he would hear more testimony on Jan. 14 and 24. He also said he would try to be available for an additional day during that period.
Meanwhile, there was a big sign Friday that contraction won't happen for 2002: The Twins hired Ron Gardenhire as manager and gave him a two-year contract. The team had held off a decision because of the uncertainty caused by commissioner Bud Selig's contraction plan.
The schedule makes it unlikely Das will be able to make a decision before the start of February - two weeks before spring training begins. The union claims owners violated the provisions of the expired labor contract, which remains in force, when they voted Nov. 6 to eliminate two teams.
Minnesota and Montreal were the likely choices, but contraction was stopped when a Minnesota judge issues an injunction Nov. 16 that orders the Twins to play at the Metrodome next season. The Minnesota Court of Appeals hasn't ruled on the attempt by baseball and the Twins to lift the injunction.
While collective bargaining is to start next week, it's unclear if owners are prepared to make their central economic proposals. Management lawyer Rob Manfred declined comment.
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