A parking lot is mostly empty on the day pitchers...

A parking lot is mostly empty on the day pitchers and catchers were scheduled to report to camp at the Yankees' spring training complex at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Wednesday in Tampa, Fla. Credit: AP/Steve Nesius

After four consecutive days of stalled negotiations, there appeared to be an uptick in urgency Friday at Roger Dean Stadium, where Major League Baseball and the Players Association have been trying to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement.

The two sides remained at the Jupiter, Florida, site for their longest meeting of this critically important week, stretched over nearly six hours and divided into three separate face-to-face sessions — the most daily contact since the lockout began on Dec. 2.

Rob Manfred also made his first appearance at this Florida round for a previously unplanned summit with union chief Tony Clark, according to a source, at the commissioner’s request.

MLB announced the cancellation of more spring training games, now erased through March 7, contingent on a deal coming together by Manfred’s Monday deadline to salvage the March 31 start for Opening Day.

A week earlier, MLB had wiped out all exhibition games through March 4, and with the lockout costing more days on the calendar, putting a further dent in the spring training schedule was inevitable.

Saturday was supposed to be Opening Day for the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues. Instead, MLB and the Players Association will meet for a sixth straight day at the mostly vacant spring training home of the Cardinals and Marlins.

According to multiple reports, Manfred was seen walking over to the Cardinals’ clubhouse, the makeshift headquarters for the union, to have Friday’s discussion with Clark.

The specific contents of that conversation between Manfred and Clark were not immediately clear. It lasted close to a half-hour, according to reports. They had not met in person since the lockout began, and with 72 hours left to beat the commissioner’s Monday deadline, both sides are quickly running out of time, with a mountain of work remaining.

Manfred and Clark do not have a history of cordial get-togethers, with the relationship becoming more adversarial during their contentious efforts to rekindle the 2020 season in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before then, the two sides were wary of each other’s labor strategies. Afterward, that friction heated up to a full-blown mistrust, which is partly to blame for where baseball is languishing at the moment.

In terms of what was accomplished Friday toward the language of a new CBA, a source said progress was made on the draft lottery, a mechanism the union believes can help curtail teams tanking for high picks.

MLB stood firm on the number of top selections to be affected — the first four — but is more flexible on how many consecutive years a team would be eligible. The union started at eight teams but dropped to seven in its most recent proposal, and a source indicated Friday that this particular issue has the potential to be completed shortly.

Beyond the draft lottery, however, lies some bumpy road, with little common ground involving the core economic issues. The two sides remain miles apart on the competitive balance tax, minimum salaries and the pre-arbitration bonus pool. If all of Friday was needed just to move closer on the draft lottery, the odds of agreeing on those other three items by the end of Monday seem remote.

On the CBT alone, the two sides are $31 million apart regarding the first payroll tier, with MLB suggesting $214 million and the union sticking to the $245 million from its pre-lockout proposal. The players also have bristled at the onerous tax rates, which start at 50% — up from the 20% in the expired CBA.

On the minimum salaries, MLB has offered $640,000 with an increase of $10,000 each subsequent year; the union is at $775,000 with a yearly bump of $30,000.

Regarding the bonus pool, MLB last stood at $20 million, the union is seeking $115 million, and there also is a discrepancy on which players would qualify for that money.

With Opening Day in jeopardy, the size of the negotiating teams on site has expanded during this past week, with Hal Steinbrenner again joining a handful of owners for Friday’s session. Max Scherzer, Andrew Miller and Zack Britton were among the players to accompany Clark during the 86th day of MLB’s lockout, the second-longest work stoppage in the sport’s history.

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