MLB, umpires seal deal through 2014

Wire Reports

Major League Baseball ensured its first decade of labor peace since the 1960s by agreeing to a five-year contract with umpires that runs through 2014.

The deal announced Wednesday, which is subject to ratification next month, was the second straight achieved without acrimony since a failed mass resignation in 1999 led to 22 umpires losing their jobs.

“I think both sides acted very professionally in trying to work through a tough time, and we ground it out,” said World Umpires Assn. President Joe West, who lost his job in the 1999 dispute and regained it three years later.

Owners are expected to vote on the deal when they meet in the Phoenix area on Jan. 14, and umpires are set for balloting four days later.

Stung by a series of missed calls during the playoffs, management sought increased flexibility on postseason assignments in the new agreement. MLB asked that the prohibition be lifted against umpires working the World Series in consecutive years, a request that some of the union membership had trouble with.

Negotiators said they wouldn’t discuss specifics of the deal before ratification, but it is hard to imagine owners agreeing to a contract that didn’t include the removal of that restriction.


Celtics’ Pierce is out for two weeks

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce had fluid drained from his right knee and will sit out the next two weeks.

Pierce did not make the flight to Orlando for a Christmas Day game against the Magic, one day after Kevin Garnett sat out his first game of the season because of a thigh bruise. Instead, team doctor Brian McKeon drained fluid from Pierce’s knee at New England Baptist Hospital.

The Celtics are on a six-day, four-game trip that will also take them to the Clippers, Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns before they return home for a Jan. 2 game against Toronto.


Lava Man returns in the San Gabriel

Lava Man returns to racing Sunday in Santa Anita’s Grade II, $150,000 San Gabriel Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on turf following 17 months of inactivity during which he underwent a series of progressive stem cell procedures to regenerate cartilage in surgically repaired ankles.

Trainer Doug O’Neill, Lava Man’s owners and the specialists at Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Hospital in Los Olivos, Calif., are confident that the 8-year-old gelding, who has earned over $5.2 million, will become a poster boy for the new technology.

The California-bred son of Slew City Slew, who was claimed for $50,000 in 2004, has been training brilliantly for his return, but O’Neill cautioned he may not be quite ready to reverse a losing streak of six races.

“We’ll be happy to run one, two or three,” O’Neill said.

Lava Man’s scheduled return in Hollywood Park’s Grade III, $100,000 Native Diver Handicap on Dec. 12 was scrapped because of poor weather conditions.

Tyler Baze, aboard for Lava Man’s last two starts, the most recent being a sixth-place finish in Del Mar’s Grade I Eddie Read Handicap on July 20, 2008, will be back in the irons on Sunday.


Tour de Georgia canceled again

The Tour de Georgia has been called off for the second consecutive year.

The 2009 race was shelved because of financial struggles.

The seven-day race has been billed as North America’s premier professional cycling event, but there was no title sponsor the last two years of the event.