They have been fitted for major league uniforms, have ordered bats and gloves, taken the team photo and individual shots for the Dodger Stadium scoreboard. They have reserved seats on the team charter and have been assigned roommates.
Yet, Friday afternoon, the Dodger replacement players started having funny feelings that everything could be for naught.
For the first time in weeks, the Dodgers are mildly optimistic about a strike settlement, and have made arrangements to remain at Dodgertown for three extra weeks if the season is delayed.
The owners will submit a formal proposal to the players' association within the next few days, according to a source familiar with the negotiations, that could move negotiations in the seven-month strike off dead center.
The key points in the proposal, according to the top management official, will include arbitration for players with three years of experience, restricted free agency for players with four and five years of experience, and unrestricted free agency after six years. The luxury tax also will be reduced to 40% on major league payrolls of more than $40 million.
"The only reason to have any optimism is the time frame itself," said Fred Claire, Dodger executive vice president. "The scary part is that we've shot by so many time frames, you begin to wonder how meaningful they are."
If a settlement is reached before opening day, Claire was certain the club would continue training at Dodgertown.
A settlement would cost replacement players $20,000 in severance pay, $10,000 in bonuses and a prorated share of $115,000 each day during the season.
The Dodgers said they no longer have a standing offer to free-agent outfielder Brett Butler of $3.5 million simply because of the Player Relations Committee's new guidelines, but still will make every attempt to sign him when the strike ends.. . . . Pitcher Hideo Nomo has been cleared to pitch to hitters and also will pitch a simulated game Sunday.