- Associated Press - Saturday, February 26, 2011

TAMPA, FLA. (AP) - Baseball union leader Michael Weiner says he’s optimistic that a new collective bargaining agreement can be reached with Major League Baseball.

Weiner and other union officials met with New York Yankees’ players on Saturday before a spring training game. The discussions centered on upcoming negotiations to replace the current deal that expires in December.

“Are we optimistic in a sense? Yes,” Weiner said. “Do we take anything for granted? No. I’ve been working for the union since 1988, and I’ve seen things take twists and turns.”

Weiner expects a few negotiating sessions before the end of spring training. He added that talks will start in earnest after the start of the regular season.

“The lines of communication are open,” Weiner said. “There seems to be a real recognition and has been for many years by management in baseball, that the union is here to stay, and the union and the players have an important role to play.”

Weiner has no concerns regarding the New York Mets, who acknowledged Friday that they received a loan from Major League Baseball in November to help cover expenses.

“The commissioner’s office, for many years, have supported different franchises in different situations,” Weiner said. “I rely upon assurances we’ve received from the commissioner’s office, as well as the documents that we are entitled to under the basic agreement. I’m very confident that the obligations to players under the basic agreement and their contracts will be met.”

Weiner also addressed with the players the labor situation in other sports. The NFL and its union are currently working on a new agreement.

“We’ll do everything we can to try to support the NFL players,” Weiner said. “We expect them to stand strong as we’ve tried to do.”

Baseball’s joint drug program and an international draft are among topics that will be part of the negotiations.

“I’m not trying to predict the future, but it doesn’t appear that anybody is looking to really reinvent the wheel,” Weiner said.

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