Houston Astros' Jason Castro, left, and Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark arrive at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla., for baseball labor negotiations, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022. (Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post via AP)

Another day ran off the clock on talks to salvage opening day when locked-out baseball players proposed what they considered a small move forward in drawn-out labor negotiations and management termed it a third straight step backward.

Management again proposed a federal mediator enter the negotiations, but the union immediately turned down that idea, leaving Major League Baseball on track to lose regular-season games to a labor dispute for the first time since 1995.

Less than a week remains until the sides reach what management says is a Monday deadline for a deal that would allow the season to start as scheduled on March 31. Players have not said whether they accept that timeframe, and there remains a sense both sides are awaiting more time pressure to force more major moves by the other.

Still, the sides agreed to meet for a third day in a row Wednesday, the 84th day of the second-longest work stoppage in baseball history.

Players made a tiny shift toward management Tuesday on their proposal for increased salary arbitration eligibility, lowering to the top 75% by service time among the group with at least two seasons in the majors but less than three.