Jays, Angels use replay system

Updated: March 4, 2014, 12:22 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Major League Baseball launched its new replay era Monday, when Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons unsuccessfully challenged a close play at first base in the sixth inning of his team's game with the Minnesota Twins.

The game was the first spring training game in history to use MLB's new replay technology, which allows for the review of a wide variety of calls. Replay also was used in the Los Angeles Angels' game against the Arizona Diamondbacks later in the day in Scottsdale, Ariz., and was available for the Chicago Cubs-Milwaukee Brewers matchup in Phoenix.

With two outs in the sixth and a runner at second base, Twins right fielder Chris Rahl bounced what looked like a routine hopper to Blue Jays shortstop Munenori Kawasaki.

Kawasaki's throw to first was high and forced first baseman Jared Goedert to leap to catch it. Goedert came down and appeared to touch the bag at about the same time that Rahl reached first base.

First-base umpire Fieldin Culbreth signaled safe, and Gibbons immediately popped out of the dugout and informed Culbreth he wanted to challenge the call.

"I'm not too sure that you're not right here," Culbreth said Gibbons told him, "but since we haven't done it before, let's go take a look."

Culbreth answered: "OK. That's what it's for."

Culbreth and the plate umpire walked over to the visitors' dugout and donned headsets while they awaited the ruling from replay umpire Brian O'Nora. During the season, plays will be reviewed at MLB offices in New York. However, plays in this game were reviewed by a crew in a satellite truck outside the stadium. O'Nora was one of three umpires who rotated for a three-inning turn as the replay umpire in charge.

After a 2-minute, 34-second wait -- about twice as long as MLB officials say most reviews will take once the system is fully up and running -- Culbreth removed his headset and again signaled that Rahl was safe, although replays indicated he might have been out. The umpires made no announcement to the crowd at Lee County Sports Complex.

During the wait, Rahl said he realized he perhaps was part of history.

"It's kind of funny. I was thinking, 'Is this the first one?' " he said.

Later in the game, Culbreth rotated and took a turn in the truck, confirming another safe call at first base.

In the eighth inning, Doug Bernier of the Twins was called safe on a close play. Culbreth studied the replay and confirmed the call in about 2½ minutes.

"I'm looking at this thing as, this is the future of the game. And I'm going to treat these games here the same way that I'm going to treat them during the regular season," Culbreth said.

[+] EnlargeJohn Gibbons
Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY SportsIt took 2 minutes, 34 seconds for umpires to review the first replay challenge during Monday's Blue Jays-Twins spring training game.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia also wasted little time in using his challenge.

In the top of the second, Luis Jimenez of the Angels tried to steal second. Catcher Bobby Wilson's throw was high but second-base umpire Bill Miller ruled that Aaron Hill tagged the runner out.

Scioscia bounded out of the dugout and charged toward Miller to argue, just like managers always have done.

Instead, though, he chose to use his challenge. After two of the umpires made a quick visit to the Angels' dugout to communicate with the replay umpire, the call was upheld.

"We weren't trying to make a mockery out of it," Scioscia said of using the challenge so soon. "We thought it was a pretty close play."

There was only one angle available with the limited camera work of a spring training telecast.

"If we have 15 angles of that," Scioscia said, "there's a possibility it gets reversed."

That review took 2:31.

Since he lost the challenge, Scioscia had no more. Under the new rules, each manager has one challenge. If the first challenge is successful, the manager gets a second. From the seventh inning on, if the manager is out of challenges, the umpire can decide to have the play reviewed.

"I don't think it's going to take much time in the logistics. That will smooth out," he said. "As far as the strategy of it, that's going to take a lot. It might be something you win, but you know you need that challenge to save the big play somewhere."

Before Monday's game, Gibbons said he was curious about the system but not necessarily eager to be the first manager to challenge a call.

"It's not like I can't wait to do it," he said. "I'm kind of interested to see how things play out. You hope maybe you can get a play that you can try it.

"And the good thing is," he joked, "if you screw it up, it doesn't count. It's only spring training."

Each team in the majors will have at least five exhibition games with the new system in place. In January, owners approved the use of additional video replay to review most calls other than balls-and-strikes. Previously, umpires could go to replay only to review home runs and boundary calls.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and Arizona's Kirk Gibson did not use their challenges Monday. Neither did Cubs manager Rick Renteria nor the Brewers' Ron Roenicke.

Gibson said he thought about contesting a close play when Paul Goldschmidt nearly beat out a grounder but said he decided it was 50-50 and not worth it.

"I think it's going to be a lot more complicated than we thought," Gibson said. "We had a lot of conversation during the game."

For the Angels-Diamondbacks game, the replay trailer was set up in the parking lot behind center field. Teams are allowed to have a person to watch the game on television and advise the managers via phone whether it would be worth it for the call to be challenged.

The Angels communicated via walkie talkie Monday but there will be a dedicated phone line for each team in the major league parks.

Some critics of expanded replay worried that challenges would delay the game too much. Culbreth said he didn't think that would be a problem and pointed at the benefits.

"It will work itself out. I think time really isn't going to be an issue in the end," he said. "And if it is, it's about getting the play right in the end, anyhow."

ESPN.com's Jayson Stark and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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