In first test of expanded replay, calls are upheld
Following reviews lasting just over two minutes, safe calls at first base stand
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Baseball's new expanded replay rules were put to use for the first time in Grapefruit League play between the Twins and Blue Jays on Monday at Hammond Stadium.
Two different calls were challenged and upheld by umpires, with the first one coming in the sixth inning.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons challenged the call on the field after Twins outfielder Chris Rahl was ruled safe at first with first-base umpire Fieldin Culbreth ruling that first baseman Jared Goedert came off the bag to field the throw.
After a review that lasted two minutes and 34 seconds, it was ruled the initial call was correct and the play was upheld.
"The first play, I saw it the way Fieldin had it," Gibbons said. "But I thought that was a perfect play to come out there and try it."
Rahl, a non-roster invitee by the Twins, was excited to be a part of history, but he said it was hard to tell whether the correct call was ultimately made.
"I didn't really get a good look if he pulled or not off of first," Rahl said. "When the coach came out and they went to the replay, I was thinking, 'Maybe I'm the first one. This could be kind of cool. I might get on ESPN or something.' It was exciting. Interesting to see the process and how it works. I thought it went fairly well and was pretty quick. They got the call right, so that's the point of the process. It was good."
Goedert also said it was tough to tell if the right call was made in real time, but he hadn't seen the replay.
"To be honest, I couldn't tell," Goedert said. "I knew if I did get back on it was barely."
Culbreth explained that he believed he had the call right, but Gibbons wanted to test the new rules, and so they had the replay umpire Brian O'Nora take a look.
"John came out, and basically, he told me, `I'm not too sure that you're not right here. But since we haven't done it before, let's go take a look,'" Culbreth said. "And I said, `OK. That's what it's for.' And then I went over there, got on the headset and called up to Brian and told him exactly what he was challenging."
O'Nora described the new replay process, and he found that the replay showed conclusive evidence that the play on the field was called correctly.
"What I saw, when [the video technician] brought up the replay, she brought up two of them, from two different angles," O'Nora said. "On the one angle, you could not tell. It was all blurry. On the second angle, [it showed] the back of the first baseman. You could see he was up in the air, and when he was coming down, he wasn't on the base, wasn't on the base. And then when I could definitely tell he was on the base, the Twins runner's foot was already on the base."
A second review came in the eighth inning, when it was ruled by umpire Will Little that Doug Bernier was safe on a grounder hit to shortstop Kevin Nolan. After a review that lasted two minutes and three seconds, the play was upheld.
Gibbons was technically out of challenges -- managers get one per game and get one more if they win their first challenge -- but he was still able to ask the umpires about the play, as once the seventh inning starts, the crew chief can call for a review.
"The second one I thought, seventh inning, they're going to check," Gibbons said. "But we might have had a shot at that one. It might have been one of those ones without enough evidence to overturn it."
Bernier, though, thought the call on the field was correct by Little.
"Usually as a runner you can kind of tell, and I felt like I was [safe]," Bernier said. "It was really close. I felt like I beat it, so I guess the replay confirmed it."
With every home game being televised by Fox Sports North at Hammond Stadium this spring, instant replay will be in use at the ballpark for the rest of Spring Training.
However, it's different than the replay system that will be used in official games this season, as the challenge umpire watched the game from a satellite truck behind the stadium instead of at Major League Baseball Advanced Media's office in New York.
The two clubs were also given walkie-talkies to communicate about potential plays that should be reviewed instead of the headsets that will be used during the regular season.
Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire was on the road in Sarasota, Fla., with the Twins playing the Orioles in split-squad action, so bench coach Terry Steinbach was the acting manager with Paul Molitor serving as bench coach.
Steinbach never used a challenge, but he did ask the umpires about a potential violation of the new home-plate collision rules in the first inning, when he thought Aaron Hicks wasn't given a lane to score by catcher Dioner Navarro. He was told it was a violation, but it wasn't challenged because the ball ultimately got away from Navarro and Hicks scored.
Steinbach is likely to be the club's point man with the headset in the dugout this season once replay becomes official, with Twins director of Major League video Sean Harlin looking at the replays and determining whether Minnesota should issue a challenge.
Steinbach said there are still some kinks to be worked out during Spring Training, but he is ultimately in favor of replay.
"The whole concept of this is, we want to get it right," Steinbach said. "So as long as we can keep the pace, and it doesn't slow it way down, I think it's something that's here and we're going to make it work."