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Official says strike can be avoided

Baseball's top labor lawyer said he believes there's a way to work out a new contract without another strike.

Sounding unusually optimistic, Rob Manfred said after Thursday's five-hour bargaining session that the sides will meet again today and probably have sessions for five straight days starting Monday.

That would be the longest period of sustained talks since the contract expired Nov. 7.

"I have said repeatedly, publicly, that I believe it is possible for us to reach a negotiated agreement without having an interruption of the season, and I still believe that," said Manfred, the executive vice president for labor relations.

Players, fearful owners will change work rules after the season or lock them out, are threatening to strike in August or September.

Meanwhile, nine public agencies that own stadiums released a statement urging Major League Baseball and the union to come to terms quickly and avoid a damaging strike.

St. Petersburg and city development administrator Rick Mussett are on the list. The city owns Tropicana Field and leases it to the Rays.

"The public has invested considerable money over the last decade" to build and renovate ballparks, the statement says. "This history demonstrates a clear statement of support and commitment by the public to the game. We ask that the owners and players reciprocate, respect this commitment and settle their differences without disrupting the game."

UMPS IRATE: Umpires threatened more legal action against owners over management's insistence that union representatives leave dressing rooms 30 minutes before games begin.

Union lawyer Larry Gibson said owners violated the labor contract by setting the time limit and by threatening to remove union representatives from ballparks and revoke their credentials if they violate the time limit.

TIGERS-DODGERS TRADE: Outfielder Hiram Bocachica was traded from Los Angeles to Detroit for minor-league pitcher Tom Farmer and a player to be named.

CUBS: Right-hander Jason Bere (sore groin) had a setback before his rehab assignment.

GIANTS: Outfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo left game in the second after straining his right hamstring in an awkward slide at second base.

MARINERS: Former Rays left-hander Doug Creek said he was having lunch with his wife at home in Tampa when the phone call came that he'd been traded to Seattle. "I don't think I finished it," the veteran reliever said. "I was really excited. I picked my wife up and swung her around a little bit."

MARLINS: The Spanish-language radio outlet WQBA-AM is cutting costs by broadcasting a four-game series in Montreal this week from the station's studios in South Florida.

ROYALS: Director of minor-league operations Bob Hegman was fired.

YANKEES: Closer Mariano Rivera received a cortisone injection in his strained right shoulder and could be headed to the disabled list for the second time this season. Left-hander Sterling Hitchcock, out with a lower back injury, pitched two scoreless innings during a rehabilitation start in a Gulf Coast League game.

_ BRYAN GILMER, TIMES WIRES

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