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Major League Baseball owners and players struck a tentative labor deal on Thursday, likely saving a full 162-game season this spring and summer.

The league’s website reported the tentative pact and said spring training games would begin late next week with regular season contests starting April 7.

It wasn’t immediately clear when all owners and union members may vote on the deal crafted by negotiators, but ratification appears to be a formality.

“Let’s play ball. Finally,” Cincinnati Reds pitcher Amir Garrett tweeted, succinctly summing up the relief felt by players and fans alike Thursday.

Even though MLB will miss its originally scheduled March 31 Opening Day, the deal gives schedule makers a chance to fit 162 games for each club between now and the end of September.

MLB’s website reported the agreement will be for five years and include a handful of on-the-field rule changes.

The playoffs will reportedly expand to 12 teams, altering a 10-team format in place since 2012.

All games are now expected to have a designated hitter, meaning a full-time batter will hit for the pitcher. The American League has used a DH since 1973, but the National League had stuck with the old rules.

Since the most recent collective bargaining agreement expired Dec. 1, owners have stopped all off-season transactions — such as trades and free-agent signings — and barred players from training in team facilities.

A slew of top players are still free agents, meaning these next four weeks will see a baseball-buying frenzy as stars such as Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa, San Francisco Giants utility man Kris Bryant, Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story and Cincinnati Reds outfielder Nick Castellanos go up for bid.

Both sides walked away from the bargaining table not completely satisfied with deal, San Francisco Giants CEO Larry Baer told reporters Thursday afternoon.

“I’m not saying it’s perfect for the players. I’m not saying it’s perfect for the owners,” he said. “But this is a big step forward.”

Management and the union had been far apart on key economic issues including soft caps on team payroll and increased salaries for younger, typically lesser-paid players.

A 162-game schedule for all MLB teams was first set in 1962, and there’s only a handful of times that clubs have fallen short of a full slate.

Player strikes in 1972 and 1981 shortened those regular seasons before another walkout in 1994 forced the end of that playing year, with no World Series champion crowned.

That work stoppage spilled in 1995, forcing a regular season of just 144 games.

The 2020 season was delayed four months by the coronavirus pandemic and comprised just 60 games, played largely in empty stadiums.

This is a developing story, please refresh here for updates.

Lana Green contributed.

Source: This post first appeared on NBC News

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