PORT CHARLOTTE — With spring training under way and baseball's regular-season opener just a month away, new players union chief Tony Clark said there is still hope to approve and implement a rule change regarding home plate collisions.
"We've made progress," Clark said Friday during his spring tour stop with the Rays. "We are very hopeful that sooner rather than later that progress will lead to something getting done and we can move forward."
On other topics of broad interest, Clark said:
• He was confident major-leaguers would be fine with having an openly gay teammate under the premise of welcoming anyone who helps them win.
• A major concern in implementing the expanded replay system is to make sure there will be an opportunity to make changes if needed during the season.
• There at least "will be dialogue" about the impact on free agency of the new draft-pick compensation system and further talk about drug-policy changes.
• In his first year since succeeding the late Michael Weiner, Clark, a former player, expects to be challenged by the owners and others: "They're going to find out if I can hit the fastball."
Arbitration numbers: The average raise for a player in salary arbitration was 117 percent this year, according to a study by the Associated Press. The 146 players who filed for arbitration averaged $3,859,912 under their new contracts, up from $1,778,081 under their previous deals. The average increase was just below the 119 percent increase last year. Leading the way was Atlanta giving Freddie Freeman a 30-fold rise from $560,000 to an average of $16,875,000 as part of a $135 million, eight-year contract. The agreement with the first baseman is the largest in team history.
Dodgers: Outfielder Yasiel Puig, last season's NL rookie of the year runnerup, arrived at camp at 251 pounds, 26 more than he played at last season. But manager Don Mattingly said he doesn't expect it to be a problem.
Giants: Pitcher Tim Lincecum will receive $100,000 from his former San Francisco landlord as part of a lawsuit settlement. Mindy Freile sued in October 2011 seeking $350,000, accusing the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner of stealing and destroying items in a townhouse he rented. Lincecum countersued, alleging Freile violated a California law requiring her to account for the whereabouts of his security deposit.
Orioles: The team continues to talk with two of the remaining free agents, first baseman/DH Kendrys Morales and outfielder/DH Nelson Cruz, according to the Baltimore Sun and cbssports.com. Because the team gave up its first-round pick (No. 17) to sign starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, it would have to give up its second-rounder (No. 55) to sign either.
Rangers: Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who received a $130 million, seven-year free agent deal, acknowledges he will feel pressure as the new leadoff hitter for a revamped offense. "I'm human," Choo said. "The next seven years, starting this year, will be a challenge for me, but I like challenges. I talk to myself, 'Choo, you play Shin-Soo Choo style.' … It's my goal is to be healthy and play every day and that's how good things happen."
Red Sox: Team president Larry Lucchino views the big-spending Yankees and his more frugal team as "very different animals." Boston won the World Series last year after signing several key players to short-term deals. The Yankees spent this offseason giving out expensive, long-term contracts. "I'm proud of that difference," Lucchino said. "I always cringe when people lump us together. Other baseball teams sometimes do that. They are still, this year at least, relying heavily on their inimitable old-fashioned Yankee style of high-priced, long-term free agents. And I can't say I wish them well. But I think that we have taken a different approach."
Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report.