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Union head Clark answers Tigers' questions

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Ex-Tiger Tony Clark, the head of the MLB Players Association, met with Tigers' players Monday.

Lakeland, Fla. – Tony Clark, the former Tigers first baseman and current head of the MLB Players Association, met with the Tigers players Monday morning to give his annual spring state of the union address.

What was supposed to be a two-hour meeting went closer to four.

Needless to say, the players had a lot to discuss, a lot of questions they wanted answered.

“There isn’t a topic that wasn’t discussed,” Clark said.

Certainly players who will be facing free agency soon, like Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez, had questions. The free agent market this past offseason dried up quicker than those of the past, and agents and team executives both put at least partial blame on the new agreement.

Clark, though, said it’s too early to tell.

“I think that you have different perspectives now with the clubs as opposed to where they were five years, 10 years ago, let alone 15 or 20 years ago,” he said. “You have different evaluation tools that are now part of the conversations that weren't there before.

“But the ink isn't even dry on the current agreement. How it's going to manifest itself this year, next year or the year after is still an open question.”

If it ends up being a restrictive deal for players, Clark said they can revisit it in five years.

“Making assumptions based on a one-year glimpse, or making assumptions about the how industry is going to move, I think is a dangerous proposition,” he said. “Some may decide what they are seeing now is the end game of what’s going to stick, and maybe in five years from now it does.

“And then we’re having another conversation when we sit down to negotiate. But this year may be a little bit different than next year, which may be a little bit different than the year after. We're going to wait and see how that plays out.”

He was asked if he sensed some buyer’s remorse from the players.

“I think everyone is interested to see what happens next,” he said. “Is there a hope that you got it all right? Yes. Is there a very real possibility that something doesn't play out in the fashion that you would hope? Yes.”

Clark also talked about Commissioner Robert Manfred’s combative stance against the union last week when the players balked at some of the proposed changes to the game. Manfred said he would, if necessary, exercise his unilateral power to implement the changes he feels are needed.

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“There was nothing that he said that was incorrect,” Clark said. “He does have that right. The commissioner's office does have that right. You'll have to ask him why he presented it in the fashion that he did.

“It's a business. He's making decisions in the fashion that he thinks are best for the industry. We're doing the same. He represents management. We represent the players. There are going to be differences of opinion. To the extent that they're offered publicly, each side has the ability to offer them in the fashion they so choose.”

Tony Clark has a future in politics.

Circus play

You see some odd things in spring training games. How about a 6-7 putout?

It happened in the fourth inning Monday.

Braves’ Travis Demeritte hit a pop up to shallow left. Left fielder Justin Upton got a bad read on it, so shortstop Jose Iglesias ran well into left field to catch it. The ball flipped up out of his glove, and Upton, trailing the play, made the catch.

“I’m sure I’ve seen that before,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “On balls hit to the outfield like that, the outfielder is taught to go down and the infielder is taught to stay up to avoid a collision. You can see where a ball might hit off an infielder’s glove and the outfielder, sliding down, would be there to catch it.”

That wasn’t the case on this one, though. Both were upright and Iglesias was running with his back to the infield.

Pitchers set

Ausmus has set his rotation for the next few days. Left-hander Daniel Norris will start Tuesday against the Yankees in Tampa. In a split-squad day Wednesday, Michael Fulmer will start against the Blue Jays in Dunedin and Mike Pelfrey will start against the Nationals in Lakeland.

Justin Verlander will start Thursday against the Pirates and Matthew Boyd will make his second start Friday at Tampa Bay.

Closer Francisco Rodriguez is expected to make his first outing of the spring Wednesday in Lakeland.

Game bits

…Right-hander Joe Jimenez gave up a walk and a triple before striking out the side in the ninth. He was working on his secondary pitches. “He’s working on them, but I am not sure he’s throwing them at the times he would throw them during the regular season,” Ausmus said. “He threw some good sliders and some he got under. He’s still working hard at them.”

…Right-hander Ruben Alaniz, a non-roster invitee, continues to impress. He pitched two scoreless innings, striking out the side in the sixth. “He’s got good raw stuff,” Ausmus said. “He’s still learning how to pitch.”

…Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson had a day – 3 for 3 with a double and an RBI. First baseman Freddie Freeman knocked in three runs with a pair of singles, including a bases loaded single off Anibal Sanchez.


…Third baseman Nick Castellanos has informed the Tigers media relations staff that he wants to be announced as, and referred to in programs and rosters, as Nicholas. Castellanos wasn’t available to explain why, or whether he wants it to be Nicholas in print media, as well.