DUNEDIN, Fla. — Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon was introduced Friday to the expanded replay process for the first of six opportunities this spring. The early verdict: So far, so good.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth inning of the Rays’ 6-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, Munenori Kawasaki smacked a grounder to first baseman Cameron Seitzer, who flipped the ball to right-hander Matt Andriese during a close play at first base. Kawaski was ruled out, but Toronto manager John Gibbons emerged from his dugout and asked for the call to be reviewed.
Shortly after, first-base umpire Eric Cooper and home-plate umpire Phil Cuzzi gathered near the Rays’ dugout behind the third-base line. Following a short conference — no more than a minute — the call was upheld.
”I really thought he was out,” Maddon said. ”I could’ve got kicked out if he had changed that one. So overall, just kind of a normal day.”
Tampa Bay could see similar testing of the expanded replay system later this spring. Games against the Boston Red Sox next Monday and March 16 in Port Charlotte, Fla., as well as a March 18 contest against the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers, Fla., a March 23 game against the Red Sox in Fort Myers and a March 24 contest against the Twins in Fort Myers will use the new replay standards if necessary.
The expanded replay, first announced last August, requires that officials make quick decisions on calls during spring training testing. Reviews will be performed from a truck located on-site instead of in New York City.
So far, Maddon approves.
”I thought they handled that really well,” he said. ”What did it take? A minute, maybe. So that was pretty well done.”
HOME RUN BEFORE DAD
Seitzer made a family memory in the top of the ninth. He cracked a two-run home run to right field on a 2-0 offering from right-hander Todd Redmond, extending the Rays’ lead to 6-1.
But this long ball counted more than most. The sequence happened in front of Kevin Seitzer, Cameron’s father and the Blue Jays’ hitting coach. Kevin was seen applauding and tipping his cap toward his son after the play.
Toronto hired Kevin last October after he served as the Kansas City Royals’ hitting coach from 2009 to 2012. A reunion proved memorable Friday.
”He was clapping for me,” Cameron said. ”When I stepped on home plate, I winked at him. It was a good time.”
Cameron said Friday’s game marked the first time he had played against his father. Cameron was an 11th-round pick by the Rays from the 2011 MLB draft, and he has spent his first three years in Tampa Bay’s system with Princeton (rookie ball), Bowling Green (Low A) and Montgomery (Double A).
So far, he has made an impression this spring in brief work. He’s 2 for 4 with two home runs and three RBI.
”He has taught me everything I know,” Cameron said of his father.
SLIGHT LINEUP CHANGE
There was a slight lineup change for the Rays upon their arrival to Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Infielder/outfielder Sean Rodriguez made the trip, played shortstop and batted ninth to start in place of Hak-Ju Lee.
Lee remained on the travel roster, but he did not play because he forgot his knee brace in Port Charlotte, Fla. He had surgery last year to repair torn ligaments in his left knee.
The Rays have made it no secret that they intend to use a by-committee approach at designated hitter this season. Wil Myers was given the start at the slot Friday and went 1 for 3 with one RBI.
With Luke Scott signing with SK Wyverns of the Korea Baseball Organization in the offseason, expect a revolving door at the position, with players like Myers and Matt Joyce to receive ample work in the area.
”Any time you can get a DH in, I think it’s a good thing,” Myers said.
Myers’ willingness to be open to the idea is one of the young players’ strongest traits, Maddon said. Usually a right-fielder, Myers hit .293 with 13 home runs and 53 RBI since his promotion from Triple-A Durham last June.
”He will be part of that mix,” Maddon said. ”Part of it is he doesn’t mind. You’ve got young players who don’t mind to do that, and just the mental part of it helps when they’re not fighting it. You still would do it anyway, but the acceptance and willingness to do it helps somewhat.”
JUAN CARLOS OVIEDO STILL MISSING
Sixty-three of the Rays’ 64 players invited to camp have reported. Two of those — infielder Wilson Betemit and right-hander Juan Sandoval — arrived late after resolving visa issues in the Dominican Republic.
The lone player missing is right-hander Juan Carlos Oviedo, who’s also dealing with visa issues in the Dominican Republic. The Rays are unaware when Oviedo’s issue will be resolved, though Maddon said the 31-year-old has kept in shape during the delay, adding that, ”if he’s throwing, I’m not concerned.”
Oviedo, who did not pitch last season after recovering from Tommy John surgery, was re-signed to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million guaranteed last December. He earned 92 saves from 2009 to 2011 as the Florida Marlins’ closer and owns a career 4.34 ERA.
”It’s kind of funny,” Maddon said. ”I mean, Sandoval has been able to get out. Betemit’s able to get out, and now we’re still waiting for Oviedo.”
Later, Maddon joked about reliever Joel Peralta’s ability to ”rescue” Oviedo.
”We’re going to pitch him two days in a row and then give him three days off,” Maddon said of Peralta. ”And then we’re going to go down there and we’re going to go (with) some Black Hawks coming at night, utilize all the advanced technologies.”
MADDON ON NEW BUCS UNIS
Always willing to offer his opinion on issues outside baseball, Maddon chimed in about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ new uniforms when asked.
The Bucs unveiled their NFL Nike Elite 51 uniform design Monday, featuring what the team called ”richer pewter, juxtaposed with a brighter, more vibrant shade of ‘Buccaneer Red.’ In homage to the Buccaneers’ early uniforms, the look also features ‘Bay Orange’ as a new primary trim color and accent on both the jersey and the pants.”
Maddon’s thoughts? Don’t call him passionate about pewter.
”I like big, bold, like their helmet,” he said. ”I normally like that, but I’ve got to see it in person. See, I’m not a big fan of the pewter, quite frankly. I like the old scheme better — that orange and red, whatever that was. I kind of like that more. I’m not into the pewter.”