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MLB owners, union scheduled to hold virtual talks Thursday, reports say

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark speak before Game 1 in baseball's World Series against the Atlanta Braves Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Ron Blum) Credit: AP/Ron Blum

Major League Baseball owners and players are scheduled to meet on Thursday in their first talks since the clubs imposed a lockout on Dec. 2, according to multiple reports.

In a nod to the COVID-19 omicron surge, the meeting is expected to be virtual. The last time the sides met face-to-face was on Dec. 1 in Irving, Texas, in a meeting that lasted seven minutes.

ESPN.com reported that the owners are expected to make a new proposal on the core economic issues that have led to MLB’s first labor shutdown since 1995. The sides are far apart on how to slice up the sport’s billions.

Spring training is scheduled to begin on Feb. 16 and the regular season openers are set for March 31.

Usually, at this time of year, players begin ramping up for the opening of spring training. The lockout means team personnel cannot talk to or about players who are on the 40-man roster. Injured players have to conduct their rehabs without input from the teams or their medical staffs. Player bios and photos have been scrubbed from team websites.

Once an agreement is reached, there should be a mad scramble to fill out rosters with some of the dozens of players who are free agents.

A signing frenzy before the lockout led to many high-profile players inking big-money deals, including Max Scherzer, whom the Mets added for three years and $130 million.

Scherzer is a member of the Players Association’s eight-person executive subcommittee, which also includes Francisco Lindor of the Mets and Gerrit Cole and Zack Britton of the Yankees.

On Jan. 3, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Scherzer stated the players’ case for a new deal.

"This negotiation is about the integrity of the game from our eyes," he said. "We feel as players that too many teams have gone into a season without any intent to win during this past CBA. Even though that can be a strategy to win in future years, we’ve seen both small-market and large-market clubs embrace tanking, and that cannot be the optimal strategy for the owners."

Asked if he thought the season would start on time, Scherzer said: "It’s too hard to even speculate what the future looks like. You’re just in limbo right now. You’re training . . . to be good to go for when spring training starts. If that doesn’t happen, then you make different decisions based on that. But until that happens, you have to have the mentality that we’re going to be playing on time. Any other kind of speculation is just hearsay."

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