NHLPA braces for another disclaimer vote, courtroom battle

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NHLPA braces for another disclaimer vote, courtroom battle

It was probably inevitable that the NHL labor negotiations were going to hit one more pothole during the slow crawl to the deadline.
The NHL and NHLPA broke off talks Thursday after meeting for only 45 minutes. The players then prepared to once again undertake a vote to give their Executive Board permission to file a disclaimer of interest and dissolve the union. The NHLPA had taken this action last month, but the deadline to file passed last night.

The union, in the midst of a long bargaining session with the owners, chose at the time to let the deadline pass. Theres a belief the NHL returned to its previous take-it-or-leave-it negotiating attitude after the deadline expired.

According to a source with knowledge of the process, the players would be able to re-vote on a disclaimer of interest quickly and could have it completed in one day, rather than the five days it took last time around.

The NHLPA also filed a motion in New York federal court on Thursday to dismiss the NHLs suit challenging their efforts to dissolve the union.
Heres the statement from the Judge Paul A. Engelmayer on the case: "The parties are directed to meet and confer on these subjects before Monday January 7 that is constructive, one that may enhance, and does not needlessly inhibit, the parties' ability to resolve their disputes with dispatch."
It all looks ugly on the outside, of course, as the lockout passed Day No. 110 on Thursday and continues to be a permanent stain of embarrassment, greed, selfishness and ego on the NHL brand. But all of that comes with the NHL and NHLPA knowing full well that they have until Jan. 11 to continue positioning themselves for the best deal possible.
More and more NHL employees are being notified that the season is expected to begin Jan. 19, consisting of a shortened 48-game schedule against conference opponents seven games against division rivals and two games apiece against every other team in the conference. It could also include an AHL-style schedule where the Bruins could play Friday and Saturday games against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre a scenario across the league that could produce some interesting results.
Many around the NHLPA believe the threat of a disclaimer of interest is exactly the kind of leverage needed to finally force a palatable CBA that both groups can live with. It forced the NHL to come up with a comprehensive 300-page offer for the first time last week, and it should once again push the owners toward the negotiating table with the players.
Its a place they should have been from the very beginning, and were this week before Thursdays dip into unsavory waters.

AL East picture through April: Red Sox better than expected

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AL East picture through April: Red Sox better than expected

BOSTON -- With the first month of the season at coming to a close, Boston finds itself half a game behind Baltimore for first place and 2.5 games ahead of the third place Rays.

With the question marks surrounding the pitching staff behind David Price entering the season, among other issues, the Red Sox are in a much better position than initially expected.

John Farrell credits much of the early success to his potent offense.

“[We] finished better than we started I think the biggest thing is that guys in our lineup have developed that trust in one another,” he said. “There [are] some elements to our offense that’ve been very encouraging. The all-field approach and the way we’ve run the bases [have] been very consistent.”

It’s undeniable that the newfound consistency to the pitching staff has been a huge help -- although Farrell did note Clay Buchholz needs to get the ball rolling.

“The last two turns through the rotation has been more consistent. We’ve been able to give our guys in the bullpen a little bit more regular rest,” Farrell said. “I like the fact that we’ve added to the depth of power arms in our bullpen. We still have room for improvement we know that.

Entering the final game of the opening series against New York, the Red Sox and the Orioles are the only AL East teams with winning records against their inter-division rivals.

Even though they’ve performed better than anticipated, a case can be made that the Red Sox should sit in first place.

Tampa Bay shut them out in the opener, and won the final game of the series that was powered by a rare David Price implosion.

Toronto won the final two games of the second season series by the skin of its teeth, narrowly avoiding Red Sox comebacks in the ninth inning of each game.

Baltimore won the first game of its opening series in Boston thanks to a ninth inning home run.

New York has one game left before both teams leave town and, weather permitting, Boston has a chance to start May off properly -- by disposing of the only team in the AL East stuck with single digit wins.

With the ups and downs for the five AL East teams, Farrell doesn’t expect there will be disparity in the division.

“Every team has got their strengths,” he said. “We don’t expect this to be a huge separation among any of the five teams here. We’re all probably searching to sure up areas that we’re in need of. That first starts with making the necessary adjustments with the guys that are on our roster right now. Not that we’re going to make wholesale changes.”

Carson Smith (forearm) to be activated for road trip

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Carson Smith (forearm) to be activated for road trip

Reliever Carson Smith is set to be activated for the start of the upcoming road trip Tuesday in Chicago, and his arrival will be welcomed by the Red Sox.

Smith, a big off-season acquisition from Seattle last December, has missed the first month after suffering a strained flexor muscle in his forearm late in March.

His return can only boost a bullpen that has performed better in recent weeks.

But his return could force the Sox into a tough roster decision. It had been assumed that Smith would return at the expense of two other young relievers on the staff -- Matt Barnes or Heath Hembree -- but manager John Farrell hinted otherwise Sunday.

"Because we've leaned on our bullpen so much,'' said Farrell, "I think we've got to be careful that we don't fall back into a similar situation that we've just been able to survive and come out of, where we've given some ample rest. To prioritize an extra pitcher versus a bench player, that's an internal discussion that's ongoing right now.

"And we've got to be mindful that Carson comes back to us with a limited rehab so we've got to be careful on his frequency of use, so it's not being ruled out that we might go with an extra pitcher for the short-term.''

That would suggest that the Sox could send out Marco Hernandez, who returned to the team Saturday to once again give them four bench players.

Barnes has appeared in 10 games and compiled a 2.92 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings while Hembree is unscored upon in four appearances, covering nine innings.

Both players have options remaining that would allow the Sox to send them to Triple A without first exposing them to waivers.

But for the time being, it would seem that the two will remain, giving the Red Sox 13 pitchers and eight-man bullpen.