Players union chief talks PEDs, Pirates

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- Any potential changes to Major League Baseball's penalties for the use of performance-enhancing drugs will not take effect until 2014, MLB Players Association executive director Michael Weiner said Thursday.

"I'm confident we'll come to a consensus before then," said Weiner, who visited Pirates camp as part of his spring training tour. "We're not going to change the rules midstream at this point."

Players currently receive 50-game suspensions for the first positive test, 100 games for the second and a ban from baseball for the third.

Some players, Weiner said, expressed interest in different levels of penalties -- separating, for example, those who knowingly tried to circumvent the rules and those who mistakenly took something that contained a banned substance.

"We've had a one-size-fits-all penalty for first-time positives," Weiner said. "We didn't really have a one-size-fits-all first-time positive in 2012. We had different types, and that has led to a number of players to think maybe differential penalties are a fair way to go."

Beginning this season, players are subject to unannounced, in-season blood tests for human growth hormone in addition to random urine tests for banned substances. In conjunction with the World Anti-Doping Agency, MLB also will create a baseline testosterone profile for every player, a control group of sorts that makes identifying synthetic testosterone use easier.

"There are some guys that have expressed, 'We've got the toughest penalties in team sports and they are sufficient. We should work on detection,' " Weiner said. "There are other players who have said, 'Maybe we should think about enhanced penalties.' "

Weiner also said the union was not concerned with the way the Pirates allocated their finances and revenue-sharing money. He said the union held meetings in the past with team president Frank Coonelly and other team officials about the issue. Reports in early 2010, shortly after Weiner took over as executive director, indicated that the union disapproved of the Pirates' use of revenue-sharing funds.

"I think over the course of the last couple of years, the Pirates have made a sincere effort to compete," Weiner said. "Their payroll has increased. Their payroll projects to continue to increase."

The Pirates project to open this season with a 40-man roster payroll around $76 million, $13.5 million of which comes from the New York Yankees and Houston Astros as part of trades. They finished 2009 with a $47.9 million payroll and spent $44.1 million in 2010. That increased to $51.8 million in 2011 and $61.3 million last season.

Weiner noted that all teams will receive increased revenue from the league beginning in 2014 due to national television contracts, helping -- ever so slightly, at least -- to bridge the gap between teams with mammoth cable TV deals and the rest of baseball.

"You have central revenue that's increasing, whether it's through the national TV contracts, though Major League Baseball Advanced Media, through the MLB Network," Weiner said. "You have local revenue that's increasing. Hopefully the revenue-sharing plan can deal with the local revenue disparities and if there's an issue, the next time we bargain, we can make adjustments to that."

Injury updates

Jeff Karstens (biceps tightness) is scheduled to throw a bullpen session today, manager Clint Hurdle said. Karstens needs to face hitters in live batting practice at least once before entering a spring training game.

Russell Martin (shoulder/upper body soreness) will swing a bat today, Hurdle said, and could serve as the designated hitter Saturday.

Walks crucial in loss

The strike zone proved elusive for Pirates pitchers, who walked 15 batters in a 16-6 loss to the Boston Red Sox at McKechnie Field.

"Our command wasn't anywhere what we wanted to be, nor what we needed to be," Hurdle said.

Jameson Taillon allowed one unearned run on one hit in two innings in his first Grapefruit League start. He walked one and struck out three.

"I feel like I went out there today and handled that situation and that stage pretty well," Taillon said. "I think being around the guys early in camp has helped me."

Gaby Sanchez entered the game at third base, playing the position for the first time since 2009 with Class AAA New Orleans, and Hurdle said Sanchez could see more time there.

"We worked very hard last season with a lot of early work opportunities," Hurdle said. "He's been working diligently here as well, so we're going to get him in some games."

"Trying to get that comfortable feeling going over there, and I felt good today," Sanchez said.

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Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and Twitter @BrinkPG.


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