MLB and MLBPA could soon agree to alter the penalties for performance-enhancing drug users

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According to Ronald Blum of the Associated Press, Major League Baseball execs and the Major League Baseball Players Association are working toward an agreement that would increase the initial suspension length for intentional performance-enhancing drug users and decrease the initial penalty for those found to have used PEDs unintentionally.

There would also a significant increase on the suspension length for second-time performance-enhancing drug offenders. Blum says the two sides “hope to reach an agreement by Sunday,” before the Dodgers play the Padres on Opening Night in San Diego. More from Blum’s report on the Associated Press website:

While the lengths have not been finalized, the sides are discussing a 100-game ban for an initial violation and a season-long ban for a second, one of the people said.

“It will be a significant deterrent because players will know they’re not going to just easily walk back into a lineup,”

Travis Tygart, chief executive officer of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “It probably is the best policy in professional sports.”

For inadvertent use, the penalty for a first violation would be cut in half to 25 games.

“What we’re all here for it to rid sports of the intentional cheats, those who are intending to defraud both the fans and their fellow teammates, the integrity of competition,” Tygart said. “You want to have provisions in place that allow for whether there’s an inadvertent or a truly non-intentional situation which may arise.”

Under MLB’s current drug prevention program, all first-time offenders are given 50-game suspensions.

A ton of players came out in favor of harsher PED penalties last summer after the Biogenesis scandal broke, and now it appears that they’re willing to put it into writing. While simply tearing up the old agreement.

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UPDATE, 9:28 p.m. ET: More on this from Joel Sherman of the New York Post

Diamondbacks return Rule 5 pick Tyler Jones to Yankees

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Diamondbacks’ right-hander Tyler Jones is headed back to the Yankees, the teams announced on Friday. The Diamondbacks had previously selected Jones in the Rule 5 draft last December, but elected to leave the 27-year-old off of their 40-man roster heading into the 2017 season. Rule 5 draft rules stipulate that when a player is not kept on the receiving team’s roster, the player must be offered back to his original team.

Jones signed a minor league contract with the Yankees prior to the 2016 season. He pitched to an impressive 2.17 ERA, 2.2 BB/9 and 13.2 SO/9 over 45 2/3 innings with Double-A Trenton, but was unable to make the leap to Triple-A or beyond during his stay with the organization.

Jones’ outlook with the Diamondbacks appeared slightly more promising. GM Mike Hazen described the righty as a power arm with a “good fastball and power curveball” after selecting him in the Rule 5 draft, and early reports indicated that Jones would be in the mix for a bullpen spot. A rough spring performance — underscored by his lack of experience at the Triple-A and major league levels — undid most of that confidence, however, and the Diamondbacks weren’t willing to keep him on the active roster throughout the entire 2017 season in order to acquire his control rights.

Jones is set to open the season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, per a report from the Yankees.

Derek Norris signing with the Rays

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Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown reports that Derek Norris is signing with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Norris was released by the Nationals nine days ago, made redundant by the Nats’ signing of Matt Wieters and by everyone sliding down a notch on the depth chart below him. Norris hit only .186/.255/.328 with 14 home runs and a .528 OPS for the Padres in 2016.

Still, there always seems to be a place for a backup catcher. For Norris that place is Tampa Bay.