BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. -- Rob Manfred is close to making the first landmark decision in his 13-month tenure as commissioner of Major League Baseball.
While he isn't tipping hand, his decision will set a precedent for how the sport deals with domestic violence.
Manfred said Friday during MLB's Grapefruit League Spring Training Media Day that he is close to making a decision on two of the first three cases in the joint domestic abuse program that the owners and Major League Baseball Players Association agreed to last year.
Colorado Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes, New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman and Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig have been investigated by MLB in recent months. Manfred has wide-ranging powers when it comes to handing out penalties under the agreement.
Only Reyes has been charged after allegedly striking his wife at a resort in Hawaii on Nov. 1. His trial is scheduled for April 4, which coincides with the Rockies' opener.
Police did not file charges against Chapman stemming from allegations that he choked his girlfriend at their Davie, Fla., home in October and also fired eight shots in his garage. Chapman told reporters when he reported Thursday to the Yankees' spring training camp in Tampa, Fla., that he would appeal any penalty from Manfred.
Puig was also not charged after allegedly pushing his sister in November while they were visiting a bar in Miami.
Manfred said he would be willing to suspend players even if they aren't charged.
"I think we all know that there are times when things occur even if charges aren't filed," Manfred said. "Oftentimes, charges aren't filed because of a lack of cooperation from witnesses."
Manfred would not say identify the two players he was about to rule on or how severe the punishment might be, saying it was not appropriate to elaborate before the decisions have been announced.
However, the subject of domestic abuse has become more sensitive than ever in professional sports in recent years after the suspensions of Ray Rice and Greg Hardy in the NFL. Manfred knows that very well, which is why many people in baseball are interested to see how hard he comes down on the offenders.
Manfred has pushed hard to increase pace of games since replacing the retiring Bud Selig and MLB instituted a between-innings pitch clock last season that required pitchers to finish their warmup tosses within one minute and 40 seconds.
Manfred said some time will likely off be shaved off that limit and the number of visits to the pitching mound by managers and coaches are likely to be cut this season. Under current rules, a manager or a coach is allowed one visit to the mound per pitcher per inning. A pitcher must be removed upon a second visit.
"We made significant strides with the pace of game last season," Manfred said. "We need to keep moving in that direction. I think it's imperative. I firmly believe it's what the fans want."
Many baseball executives believe the sport is losing younger fans because they think the game is too slow and boring. While Manfred believes the best way to get youngsters interested is to have them play the sport, he said MLB plans to announce an initiative soon that will involve more fan engagement.
Manfred also said he is encouraging players to make themselves more available to fans. That is a clearly an area in which baseball has lagged behind the other sports through the years.
"We have a lot of great young players in this game, but a lot of great personalities, too," Manfred said. "I want the fans to get to know these personalities. People don't just want to know that this guy hit .310 with 21 home runs last year. They want to know personalities, too, and our players have some much to offer in that department."
Baseball has enjoyed more than two decades of labor peace since the last strike ended in 1995. The collective bargaining agreement expires Dec. 1 and there will be two new chief negotiations in MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem and MLBPA executive director Tony Clark.
Manfred, Halem and Clark met briefly Friday morning to sketch out a possible negotiating schedule and Manfred believes the two sides can again work out an agreement without a work stoppage.
Clark seems more willing for a confrontation than his predecessor, the late Michael Weiner.
Clark has been particularly vocal about what he perceived as the unfair free agent market for such notable unsigned players as Yovani Gallardo, Ian Desmond and Dexter Fowler, which has been curtailed by the system in which teams much forfeit their first pick -- with the exception the top 10, which are protected -- in the amateur draft if they sign a player who turned down a qualifying offer from his previous club.
"Tony has been at the table for other negotiations in his other roles with the players association and Dan Halem is one of the best negotiators around," Manfred said. "I have every confidence we can work together again to reach a fair agreement that will continue to grow the game for everyone."
Senior writer John Perrotto is The Sports Xchange's baseball insider. He has covered Major League Baseball since 1988.