Timetable for Aroldis Chapman's resolution questionable for opener

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has yet to issue his ruling on the domestic violence case involving New York Yankees reliever Aroldis Chapman.

But if Chapman appeals a potential suspension and the players' union files a grievance, union chief Tony Clark said Friday he wasn't sure whether Chapman's fate could be decided before Opening Day.

Chapman has already told reporters this spring that if Manfred suspends him for an offseason incident involving his girlfriend that resulted in no legal charges, he would appeal no matter what discipline is imposed. And one baseball official told ESPN this week he sees virtually "no way" a grievance could then be scheduled and ruled upon before the end of spring training.

But when Clark was asked Friday, after a meeting with Tampa Bay Rays players, if he thought a decision from baseball's independent arbitrator, Fredric Horowitz, was possible before Opening Day, Clark replied, "It's hard to say."

"There are dates that need to be scheduled with the arbitrator in short order to determine how quickly something can be heard," Clark said. "As I stand here, I don't know what the dates, or his availability, may be at this point."

Two years ago, it took five months for Horowitz to hear and rule upon Alex Rodriguez's grievance appealing his PED suspension. So given that this would be the first challenge to a disciplinary ruling under baseball's new domestic violence policy, it would appear unlikely that any grievance on behalf of Chapman could be decided in the five weeks before Opening Day.

But Clark said these circumstances are not the same as those of previous cases.

"Wherever we have been in the past is different than where we are now," he said. "I think everybody across the board is trying to determine what's next, in time frames and in any of the considerations that are involved in decisions that are made and the process that is available. It's tough."

Clark spoke after a meeting with Rays players that stretched nearly three hours, as part of his annual tour of spring training.

Because the Rays have been selected by MLB to play a spring training exhibition game in Cuba next month, he and union officials had more questions to answer on this stop than most. Among issues Clark touched on, on that trip and other pressing issues:

  • He said he remains "hopeful and optimistic" that MLB can work through the "challenges" holding up a final announcement of the Rays' trip to Cuba, tentatively scheduled for March 20-22, with a game against the Cuban national team scheduled for March 22.

  • Clark said much of the groundwork for the trip, which would also include a visit by President Obama, had already been made. But he said that finishing that work is complicated because "there are a lot of logistics and a lot of people involved, and a lot of concerns and a lot of sensitivities. And those oftentimes take a while to work through. I think in a perfect world you have everything settled well in advance, but in a not-so-perfect world -- but what could be a perfect event -- sometimes it takes a little bit longer."

  • Asked whether there were any remaining challenges serious enough to prevent the game from taking place at all, Clark said: "I would like to think not. I'd like to think we'd be able to find common ground across the board on any of the issues that do remain."

  • Clark indicated the union has questions about a free-agent market this winter that has left a number of big-name players unsigned, even in the last week of February, saying: "I don't recall an offseason that has played itself out in the fashion that this offseason has and continues to."

  • He said that with labor talks about to begin, the "intricacies" of this market create "a very interesting market to have bargaining in" and said union officials, in conjunction with agents, would "review the entire offseason, in an effort to try to appreciate whether it is a trend or happenstance." Asked whether he felt there was any evidence of collusion among the clubs, he replied, carefully: "We're interested in appreciating how all the moving pieces fit in this offseason."

  • A day after New York Mets manager Terry Collins responded to changes in the sliding rules, and particularly the elimination of the so-called "neighborhood play," saying they could result in infielders getting "clocked," Clark said officials don't expect that, based on video studies. But if, when the games start, "we've got middle infielders who are getting clobbered," there would be "an opportunity to tweak" the rules to make sure that doesn't happen.

  • Clark did not say precisely when negotiations on the new collective bargaining agreement would begin but said the players are "cautiously optimistic" that the two sides will be able to reach agreement without a work stoppage. The current labor agreement expires Dec. 1.