MIAMI (AP) — Players who test positive for opioids would enter treatment and not be suspended under the change to Major League Baseball’s drug agreement being negotiated by management and the players’ association, according to union head Tony Clark.

Talks to
add testing for opioids began following the death this year of Los
Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs. Players have been tested for
performance-enhancing substances since 2004 and for banned stimulants
since 2006.

“We believe wholeheartedly, as we always have, that
the treatment option and not discipline is the best route to go,” Clark
said Wednesday as the union’s executive board finished its annual

The union and MLB are in agreement that treatment would
be warranted for opioids and not discipline, Clark said. He added the
addition to the drug agreement likely be made this offseason.

“I’m pretty confident that’s where we’re going,” Clark said.

was found dead in his hotel room in the Dallas area July 1 before the
start of a series against the Texas Rangers. A medical examiner’s office
said the 27-year-old died after choking on his vomit with a toxic mix
of alcohol and the painkillers fentanyl and oxycodone in his body.

Tony Clark, executive director of the baseball players’ union (AP Photo/ Carlos Osorio)

spoke after the three days of union meetings, with all 30 player
representatives in attendance. Elvis Andrus of the Texas Rangers became
the first Venezuelan to be elected to the executive subcommittee.

focus was on preparations for collective bargaining, which has begun
well in advance of the current deal’s expiration in December 2021.

spent a lot of time talking about industry economics and player
markets,” Clark said. “We’re nowhere near a point of proposals and
formal engagement.”

The union discussed pace of play and isn’t
enthusiastic about MLB’s proposal to require a three-batter minimum for
pitchers next season. MLB has the right to change the rule for 2020 even
without the union’s agreement.

The union has been resistant to such changes to speed up play.

seen a game that has changed dramatically over the last four or five
years, and I don’t know that there’s a clear answer yet on what type of
game we want to have,” Clark said. “Guys are very concerned about the
constant discussions about rule changes. If we want to make
extraordinary changes, call it something else. Don’t call it baseball.”

said the union is receptive to reducing the length of breaks between
innings to 1 minute, 55 seconds during the regular season, another
change management has the right to make for 2020.

By Steven Wine

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