KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Major league teams will each have at least five games this spring where managers can challenge plays as part of the major expansion of instant replay which begins this season.
Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez is looking forward to getting acquainted with it.
”Those five games that we have the actual television, I’m challenging everything just to get a feel for it,” he said. ”I’m sure that the umpires will appreciate that.”
Gonzalez, Houston manager Bo Porter, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and Nationals manager Matt Williams met with MLB executives Joe Torre and Tony La Russa for almost three hours Friday to go over the replay rules.
The new rules allow each manager to challenge one call a game. If he wins the first one, he’ll earn another challenge. The crew chief can request a review after the seventh inning if the manager has used his challenges.
Baseball has been reluctant to use replay and became the last major professional sport in North America to implement it late in the 2008 season. But it was very narrowly used – only close home runs could be reviewed.
Now almost every call can be contested, with the exception of ball-and-strikes and checked swings. They also won’t allow reviews of what is known as the ”neighborhood play” at second base on potential double plays.
Gonzalez and Porter both acknowledged that the meeting was rather long, but they didn’t mind.
”It’s historic for our sport,” Gonzalez said. ”It’s never been done so we want to do it right.”
Porter agreed and said he left the meeting feeling very comfortable with the rules.
”It was necessary,” he said. ”I thought that they did a tremendous job of putting the information together and giving us scenarios. It was long, but it was very much needed and very beneficial at the same time.”
The reviews during the regular season will be done by current MLB umpires at the replay center in MLB.com’s office in New York. Gonzalez said there will be eight umpires who will each be responsible for two games at a time.
And as for people who worry that this will further slow a game that some people complain already takes too long, Gonzalez doesn’t believe that will be the case.
”As soon as they see something going on, they can go right to that play,” he said. ”They feel like they’ll have an answer when the umpire comes to the headphones … and there’s no delay.”
Concerns about managers using replay challenges to buy time to warm-up a pitcher are probably unwarranted, Ausmus said.
”It doesn’t sound like there’s going to be a lot of time,” he said.
The manager or other team officials in the dugout can talk with someone in the clubhouse watching a live feed of the game with replays available to help determine if the manager should challenge a call.
Porter said he and his staff will work on how they’ll decide whether to challenge plays all spring, not just in the games where instant replay is used.
”It’s more of getting into the practice and getting into the language you want to have transmitted during a close play and I think we can simulate it this spring,” he said.
Though he’s certainly going to prepare to use instant replay, Gonzalez is not too sure how much he’ll actually use it in the season.
”If you believe the numbers that they throw at you, we may go four or five games without even throwing a challenge,” he said. ”I believe, without having any kind of numbers behind it that this is going to show how good our major league umpires are.”