Matheny gets first chance to test MLB's new instant replay setup

Mike Matheny takes advantage of MLB's new instant replay rule for the first time this spring, and lets just say there are a few bugs that still need worked out. But hey, isn't that what spring training is for?

Mike Matheny and the Cardinals are still getting used to all the particulars involved with MLB's new instant replay rules.

Steve Mitchell / USA TODAY Sports

JUPITER, Fla. -- In the bottom of the eighth inning of their exhibition against the Red Sox on Wednesday afternoon, the Cardinals got their first chance to test the new instant replay setup.

The verdict: Let's just hope the process goes more smoothly when the games count.

Really, though, it should. A couple of the hiccups were because this was an exhibition at Roger Dean Stadium and not a real game at Busch Stadium. This being spring training, the technology being used isn't as sophisticated as what will be in place for the regular season.

As it was, the play didn't affect the outcome in the Cardinals' 8-6 victory and the game was delayed for less than two minutes. And most important, the correct call was made -- as replay confirmed.

First, the disputed play: With one out and the Cardinals' Joey Butler on first, Stephen Piscotty hit a comebacker to Red Sox pitcher Noe Ramirez, whose wide throw to second made the play closer than it should have been. But, though the Cardinals weren't sure, second baseman Heiker Meneses caught the ball just before he came off the base and completed the double play. Matheny challenged the out at second.

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Now, what was a little rough around the edges of the process:

The Cardinals' video crew watching was doing so on a satellite feed that was several seconds behind the live action. The delay in the feed was long enough that Matheny challenged the call before he got a signal from bench coach Mike Aldrete.

Matheny started jogging onto the field, then slowed down to give his video crew time to check the replay monitors. But he still either felt rushed or was rushed by the umpires to make the decision.

"The whole mechanics of it are going to be awkward," said Matheny, who is expected to have about a minute during the regular season to decide whether to issue a challenge. "I had to stop myself and position myself (to see the dugout). It's different, there's no question about it."

Another spring training bug: Limited angles were available for the video crew to review because fewer cameras are used in spring training.

"We could have used another angle," Matheny said. "If (Butler) would have had his lead leg down, he's safe. It was as close as we thought it was from the bench."

Then there were a couple of missteps that had nothing to do with technology. They came about because players weren't sure what to do, either.

Because the double play ended the inning, the Red Sox headed to their dugout. But when a manager comes out to possibly challenge a call, the defense should stay on the field.

When the Red Sox came off, the Cardinals, including reliever Sam Freeman, went out to prepare for the top of the ninth. They should have stayed off the field until a ruling had been made. Of course, if the Red Sox had not retreated, the Cardinals would have stayed in their dugout. "Our guys aren't going to go out and take ground balls next to them," Matheny pointed out.

Not even Matheny, however, was positive that Freeman, by going to the mound before a ruling had been made, would have been considered the pitcher of record. Matheny said the pitcher has to be on the mound and the hitter in the box for the pitcher to officially be in the game, but the skipper admitted he wasn't positive.

"I know the system needs to get some bugs worked out," Matheny said. "The only way we're going to get through some of this is even on the semi-questionable (plays), we're going to have to learn by giving it a shot."

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This, in fact, was a play the Cardinals probably wouldn't have challenged in the regular season because the support group would have been able to get word to Matheny that Butler indeed was out.  

"The whole thing was kind of a mess," Matheny admitted. "There's going to be some lumps."

They might not all be smoothed out in spring training, either.


-- Seeing who makes the Cardinals Hall of Fame should be interesting. Of the eight candidates named Wednesday, only two get in. The fun part: You get to decide.

Online balloting on the club's website begins Friday and concludes April 22 with the top two vote-getters making the team's new Hall.

The elite eight: Jim Edmonds, Bob Forsch, Keith Hernandez, Willie McGee, Mark McGwire, Matt Morris, Ted Simmons and Joe Torre.

My first two votes would go to Simmons and McGee. My prediction: Edmonds and McGee.

-- Closer Trevor Rosenthal anticipates he will make his spring debut sometime this weekend, perhaps as early as Friday. Rosenthal looked good and reported no issues after throwing a live batting-practice session Wednesday morning. The hard-throwing right-hander reported a tight groin last Tuesday and was slowed down for a few days.

-- Shelby Miller broke out his curveball in his first spring start and the results were encouraging to the Cardinals. Miller gave up a leadoff homer to Daniel Nava but then retired the next eight Red Sox, five by strikeout.

"Real happy with how his breaking ball looked," Matheny said. "That's a completely different weapon than he's ever had before. He had one sequence where he goes curveball, curveball, high fastball. Three quick pitches (and a strikeout). That's going to be a lot of fun to play with."

-- In an attempt to convince Oscar Taveras that he still is favoring his left ankle, the club on Wednesday showed him video of him running in spring training.

"In his mind, he's not favoring it," Matheny said. "So it's kind of a tough conversation. We're trying to do what's best for him and what's best for our club, too, (which) is to have a player that's completely ready to go before he gets out there and starts learning bad habits or makes himself more susceptible to injury."

Taveras will travel Thursday with the Cardinals to Ft. Myers, where Adam Wainwright will make his spring debut against the Twins. Taveras, however, is not expected to play. "He's just going to go and get his work in there," Matheny said.

Not making the trip will be center fielder Peter Bourjos, who will not play for the third straight game after reporting tenderness in his leg following Sunday's game.

"They're testing him out," Matheny said. "He's got good strength, which is always that sign we're not looking at anything major. It was a little tender, so we're staying away from pushing him."

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at

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