The Associated Press
CHICAGO─The owners' actions during the 4 and 1/2-hour meeting strongly suggest they have all but accepted the players' offer to return to work, subject to agreement on minor details such as rescheduling baseball's calendar.
The season-opening game, which was to have been played yesterday, was tentatively postponed until April 26. In addition to the opener between the Florida Marlins and New York Mets, all of yesterday's seven exhibition games were canceled.
Players ended their strike Friday after U.S. District Judge Sonia Sotomayor slapped owners with an injunction.
''We want to put this behind us and turn the page,'' Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos said before the meeting. ''Let's begin again ─ both sides.''
Teams were told to release all their replacement players by 11:59 p.m. EST Saturday night, although some strikebreakers stayed on and signed minor-league contracts. Some were bitter.
''The owners got a high fastball under the chin and their knees buckled,'' said Billy Faultz, a replacement pitcher with the Cincinnati Reds. ''That's about the way I feel about it.''
Under the tentative agreement, each team would play 144 games, 18 fewer than the original schedule. That would result in the cancellation of the season's first 252 games, raising the total number of games wiped out by the strike to 921.
This marks the third time opening day was pushed back by a work stoppage. A strike in 1972 delayed it from April 1 to April 15, and a lockout in 1990 pushed it back from April 2 to April 9.
Regulars would have just three weeks of workouts under the schedule being discussed, the same as in 1990. Some owners wanted the union to agree not to wipe out the latter part of the season again.
''I think we need a no-strike pledge but I understand they don't want to do it,'' Philadelphia Phillies owner Bill Giles said.
Boston Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette said teams were hoping to start exhibition games on April 13.
The decision to release all the replacement players was made so owners didn't commit yesterday to paying $25,000 bonuses to each of the 32 replacements on each of the 28 teams, a total of $22.4 million.
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